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The Carroll Myth
Published on Sunday, 24 July 2011

2 stars

Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit
19, 21 Jul, 7:30pm-8:45pm; 22-24 Jul, 3:15pm-4:30pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

Drawing inspiration from the works of Lewis Carroll, and speculation on the private life of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – the man behind the pseudonym – The Carroll Myth explores the author's supposedly questionable relationship with the young Alice Liddell, and ventures into the darker recesses of his mind as he becomes consumed by his own Wonderland creations.

Nathan Shreeve's script places the inspiration for many of Carroll's fantastical creations in the Liddell family: Lorina Liddell, for example, morphs into the terrifying Red Queen before his eyes. Sadly though, the contrast between real life and Wonderland isn’t made striking enough to get the most out of that central idea. The real-world characters do little to capture genteel Victorian manners and speech, and the script forgoes subtext in favour of overly dramatic confrontation in nearly every scene.

Carroll's relationship with his supposed muse, Alice, revolves around the stories and poems he writes to amuse her, but we see little childlike delight in the absurdity of Carroll's rhymes. Instead, an all-pervading air of malevolence seems rather clumsily imposed upon the nonsense works.  Whilst I will readily admit that The Walrus and the Carpenter seemed a very unhappy tale when I was a child, the same sinister tone seemed out of place in You Are Old, Father William. Without seeing Alice truly captivated by Carroll's stories, I found it difficult to establish the relationship they shared.

The design is well-conceived, with the set and lighting creating both worlds skillfully and simply, and he cast is energetic and enthusiastic – maintaining a sense of an ensemble throughout. There is room to work on fully inhabiting the physicalities of the characters, but the whole cast delivered committed and sustained performances.

The life of Lewis Carroll, and the girl who inspired his most famous of stories, have been long been the source of much speculation. Taking the audience on a colourful and exuberant journey, The Carroll Myth attempts to fill in the gaps in Carroll’s extensive diaries, and look into the darker recesses of his mind.  Sadly though, unlike Carroll’s timeless creations, it ultimately fails to captivate.

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