Alice, Crucible, Sheffield

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The Independent Culture

The White Rabbit doesn't seem too worried about being late, the grinning Cheshire Cat appears to have paedophilic tendencies and the Hatter isn't much madder than the rest of his weird Wonderland contemporaries. In Laura Wade's engaging new version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland a classic is given a wonderfully ingenious twist. It couldn't be more different from her portrayal of Tory students in her Royal Court hit, Posh, except that both plays contain her characteristic sharp observations and finely honed dialogue.

Wade's Alice, set in the Sheffield where she grew up, takes place in the present time and begins not with a tumble down a rabbit hole but with the funeral of Alice's brother, Joe. Emotionally confused, withdrawing from a wake at which people express crass sentiments, Alice finds herself on a psychological quest to come to terms with her feelings. If this all sounds a bit mawkish, it's not. It is, in fact, a brilliant slant on an old tale.

Much rests on the young shoulders of Ruby Bentall who, as the 12-year old Alice, is scarcely off the stage. Presenting a feisty girl on the cusp of her teenage years, Bentall conveys her character astonishingly well, at times plaintively and almost inaudibly high-voiced, at others a tomboy in her spontaneous reactions.

Drawing on comedy, musicals and even music hall, Lyndsey Turner's ebullient production is by no means slick. There's little high-tech sophistication but a great deal of accomplishment in the staging. The talented 10-strong cast take a number of roles, with Beatie Edney's waggish Duchess and plaintive Mock Turtle and Pippa Haywood's harsh Queen standing out. There are also compelling performances from a comical Tweedlum and Tweedledee, a virtuoso performance from John Marquez as Humpty Dumpty and an Alan-Bennett-like Gryphon, and a dubious but very funny Cheshire Cat from Graham O'Mara.

To 24 July (0114 249 6000)