On the road with Cabbages and Kings. We headed down to Guildford and spent the first couple of hours walking out the new route around the castle grounds.
With all the focus on the Ham House show we'd not really put enough thought into the possibilities for this new venue - but they quickly revealed themselves to us as we restaged. The Victorian bandstand became a perfect setting for Victorian Oxford and a beautiful winding tunnel that leads down from the bowling green to the lower gardens made for a perfect rabbit hole.
We staged the Mad Hatter's tea party on the grass in front of Chestnuts Lewis Carroll's Guildford house. I couldn't help looking up every now and then, wondering if his ghost might appear in the window. I'd like to think he'd enjoy our show - but can't help feeling he'd be horrified.
The Queen Victoria scene was majestic at the top of the hill with the keep as backdrop and then we led the audience back round to the rose gardens for the Caterpillar and White Knight sections before ending the show in the garden where Alice's Looking Glass statue now stands.
It was a very different experience to Friday's crowds. A small audience of twenty or so joined us for the early evening stroll around the grounds. One girl, Sarah, who, on her way home from school had spotted Jordan's White Rabbit and dragged her Mum into the grounds to see what was going on, became completely immersed.
She was quickly in the playing space taking Caitlin's hand and commenting on the action. She watched carefully, offered advice to the characters and at one point addressed the rest of the audience directly. As Lisa's Cheshire Cat reminded us that if we want to get somewhere it doesn't matter which way we go. Sarah took centre stage and told us and summarised the problem for us.
'The thing is,' she said 'we don't really know which way we SHOULD go!'
A little further on the Red Queen and White Knight were fighting for Alice. Sarah looked worried. She sneaked round the back and took Chanika by the hand,
'Let's go!' she whispered for us all to hear 'you're in terrible danger here!'
It was great to see the show in a completely different context and to know that it's robust enough to work effectively both with big crowds, who enjoy the visual spectacle and this more intimate setting, where a small girl on her way home from school can suddenly and surprisingly find herself the protagonist in her own wonderland.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.