Monday, September 5, 2022

Alice in Toytheatreland

When I was last abroad, I was thrilled to see an exhibit of gothic toy theatres at Strawberry Hill, the former home of Horace Walpole.

I'd previously built a toy theatre version of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, but the gift shop had a kit for building a toy theatre for Alice in Wonderland.

As readers of this blog know, I wrote my own stage adaptation of the Alice books, so it will come as no surprise that I bought the kit. It came as a printed book with cardstock pieces that can be cut out and glued together into a miniature theatre.

When you assemble the toy theatre, it looks like this:

The audience gets the full experience: the orchestra in the pit, spectators in the side boxes, and a full proscenium. Then the curtain goes up, and as the show begins, we see Alice out in the woods:

What's that? A white rabbit with a pocket watch? Alice tries to follow him and falls down, down, down the rabbit hole. The white rabbit is nowhere to be seen, but she spies a little door with a tiny keyhole...

Finding a bottle with the label "Drink Me" Alice decides to take a sip. Remember, though, kids, you shouldn't drink strange things when you don't know where they come from, especially if they're labeled "POISON" because if you drink poison, it is almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later.

And look at what happened to Alice! She drank from the bottle and shrank down to a teeny tiny size. There was also a very small cake with the words "Eat Me" on it, and Alice, being Alice, decided to give it a try.

Wouldn't you know it? After eating a bit of cake, Alice began to grow. Pretty soon, she was back to her normal size. The only problem was, she didn't stop growing. Alice grew and grew until...

...she could hardly fit inside the theatre! Distraught by this turn of events, Alice began to cry, until she realized she could just take a swig from the bottle and shrink again. The only problem was, when Alice shrank, she was washed away by a sea of her own tears until she arrived in Wonderland...

The first creature Alice came across was a Caterpillar, sitting on a magic mushroom, and smoking something nasty-smelling out of a hookah. Fortunately, Alice had learned in school to Just Say No to Drugs, so she passed the Caterpillar right by...

Alice came across a Duchess holding a baby. Alice had never met a Duchess before (though she had met many babies). The Duchess offered to give the baby to Alice to nurse for a bit, since she had to go play croquet with the Queen.

As soon as Alice took the baby, however, it promptly turned into a pig! (Don't you hate it when they do that?) Alice decided to put the pig down beside a tree, but as the little pig ran away, she heard something purring up in the tree...

It was a Cheshire Cat, grinning from ear to ear. "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice. "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. "In that direction, lives a Hatter, and in that direction lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."

Alice didn't want to go among mad people. She'd seen Hatters before, but none quite like this one. He asked funny riddles and sang a silly song. It ended up being the stupidest tea party she ever was at in all her life!

Alice left the tea party and saw little men who looked like cards painting white roses red in order to please the Queen of Hearts. She thought this queen sounded like a rather unpleasant person, but she did love to play croquet...

"Who is this? What's your name, child?" the Queen asked her. "My name is Alice, so please your Majesty," said Alice, with a curtsy. "And why are you not bowing before me?" thundered the Queen. "Off with her head!"

Instead of executing Alice, the Queen handed her a croquet mallet. Imagine Alice's surprise when the croquet mallet turned out to be... a flamingo!

"Oh my fur and whiskers! She'll get me executed, as sure as ferrets are ferrets!" Alice turned and saw the White Rabbit. He was dressed in livery and blowing a trumpet to announce a new trial. Someone had stolen the Queen's tarts...

The first witness at the trial was the Mad Hatter. He hadn't stolen the tarts, he said, and even if he had, he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Next, the Queen called for the Cheshire Cat to appear. The Cat was about as cooperative of a witness as you would expect a Cat to be. The Queen was irate, and yelled, "Off with his head!"

Then, the Cheshire Cat disappeared... except for his head! "They'll never be able to cut off a head unless there is a body to cut it off from," said the White Rabbit. "Nonsense!" roared the Queen. "Anything that has a head can be beheaded."

Unable to execute the Cat, the Queen ordered that Alice be executed instead. "You can't hurt me," said Alice. "You're all just a pack of cards!" With that, all of the cards shrank smaller and smaller. Either that, or Alice grew larger and larger, until...

She could hardly fit in the theatre again!

Alice then awoke to find herself back where the whole story began. Perhaps the whole thing had been a dream!

That's the show, folks. I hope you enjoyed it!