A curious wonderland of topsy-turvy panto magic!
A world of magic sprinkled with nonsense and laughter awaited those who stepped into a wonderland at Richmond School when its students put on their first show since before Covid. The 35-strong Alice in Wonderland: The Curious Pantomime cast delivered a slickly-timed, high-spirited show that was a truly fitting tribute to its author and Richmond School alumnus, Lewis Carroll.
The whole performance was an explosion of colour, music and fun which captivated the multi-generational audiences from start to finish. Alice was played by 17-year-old Georgie O’Reilly, who made the title role her own, amazing everyone with her fabulous singing, acting and dancing as well as her superb chemistry with the other lead actors.
With his naughty sense of humour and gift of ad libbing, Toby Watson’s portrayal of The Duchess, the panto dame, was outstanding. Wearing a series of outrageous costumes, including rainbow tights and sky-scraper sequined heels, 16-year old Toby impressed everyone with his pun-laden one-liners and warm, bubbly personality. The White Rabbit engaged the audience, who shouted ‘hurry, hurry Mr Bunny’ each time he was notoriously late. Played by Myles Fairhurst, age 13, the White Rabbit was full of energy and bounce and added immense charm to the story.
A real treat was when the delightfully loopy Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the adorable dormouse made their first appearance. Changing places in their never-ending tea party, the group brought so much colour and comic timing to the show, only matched by the baking of the jam tarts scene. Cue Tweedledee and Tweedledum as the comic double act who worked in flawless harmony and added so much visual appeal and joy in this slapstick bake-off with Alice, the Duchess and the White Rabbit.
No panto is complete without a baddie and this came in the form of the deliciously evil knave and the bossy and sassy Queen of Hearts who injected that touch of wickedness to the script. The Queen, played by Sophia O’Callaghan, was heard to shout ‘off with their heads’ on numerous occasions but in true panto style good reigned supreme and the Queen left the world of evil behind her. Teddy Warren was superb in his role as Caterpillar, recreating the story book image with his pipe and toadstool. There were some fantastic costumes in the show, no more so than the exotic mock turtle and caterpillar, as well as the Cheshire Cat, who appeared and disappeared as expected with his piercing eyes and trademark grin. The lead actors were supported by a fantastic ensemble who sang and danced in all the big numbers.
The upbeat and rousing songs were arranged and played to perfection by the house band, made up entirely of Sixth Form students, and included a diverse mix of styles from Shania Twain’s ‘Man I feel like a woman’ to Lion King’s ‘Hakuna Matata.’
The pantomime was co-directed by Stephen Birdsall, Drama Teacher, and Danni Manning, Lead Teacher for Drama, who said: “’Alice in Wonderland: The Curious Pantomime’ is the first whole school production we have staged since 2017’s ‘Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. Students from across Years 7 to 13 have worked hard for months under the direction of Mr Birdsall and myself to prepare the show. This production has been a true collaboration and a testament to our students’ dedication and talent. The band is made up of four sixth form students who have rehearsed entirely independently to prepare the music and the technical aspects of the show were also managed by students, under the leadership of Luke Ingram. Backstage, Georgie Hickman has taken leadership of stage management, with credit for visual design going to Poppy Mortimer who created the show’s incredible backdrops, as well as the Cheshire Cat and Door. Our talented performers have rehearsed tirelessly to bring this production to life and have never failed to impress with their creativity, hard work and passion for the project.
“We would like to give special thanks to Mrs Collier, who created our wonderful Alice in Wonderland photo booth; Miss Pemberton, for her assistance with choreography and Mrs Warren, who created our beautiful Caterpillar costume. Thank you also to the Trustees for the amazing support we have received which has enabled us to offer this fantastic performing arts opportunity to our students. And finally, to all those who have bought tickets, provided support, sweets, teas or coffees for our cast and crew.”
Jenna Potter, Headteacher, added: “With a dazzling cast, exceptional musicians, technical and back-stage crew, this was a deliriously daft, pun-laden pantomime that saw our students embody everything that is so wonderful about Richmond School – they demonstrated all our CREDIT values to the full – Creativity, Respect, Excellence, Determination, Independence and Teamwork, highlighting our strength of community spirit.”