Wonderland, Assembly Rooms

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The Independent Culture

Gyles Brandreth’s new musical imagines a meeting between Lewis Carroll and a grown-up Alice Liddell, the little girl for whom he created Alice in Wonderland. Over tea and jam tarts in his Oxford rooms, together they relive the golden days of Wonderland.

Or do they? In fact, this isn’t Lewis and Alice, it’s Charles Dodgson and Isa Bowman, a cockney actress in a blonde wig with put-on cut-glass vowels who played Alice in Wonderland on stage. This is their story, based on a real-life friendship the pair struck up in Dodgson’s dotage.

On a surrealist set of chandeliers, wonky picture frames and heavy furniture, the unlikely pair sing and dance through a world of fantasies with puppets, magic tricks and some hummable tunes by Susannah Pearse. There’s the Mad Hatter’s tea party, a song about the Jabberwocky and a tense meeting with the Queen of Hearts. All great fun until Bowman decides it’s time to leave fiction behind and live in the real world.

Michael Maloney is impish as the lightly inappropriate Dodgson, a childish man who falls in love with every young girl he meets and would like to live permanently in Wonderland. But it’s Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Alice/ Isa with an expressive face, tinkling voice and buckets of charm who steals the show. A star is born.

To 29 Aug (0131623 3030)

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