Centrefold: Alice in suburbia: Wonderland gets a Nineties revamp

It survived a plot to blow it up, it was a Mecca for intellectuals, and it's the place where time stands still. No, it's not the new British Library, but the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. If you want to catch Patrick Moore mooching around, you'll be disappointed - the working observatory is now in Cambridge. But the idyllic Old Observatory garden is now to host Hot Air's new musical version of Alice in Wonderland.

Director Mick Gordon read the story at Oxford. 'I didn't like all these essays saying 'Oh, it's about sexual repression. . .' - no, it's a fairy story which takes real-life characters and warps them slightly: the Queen is Queen Victoria, the Mock Turtle is an old Oxford tutor. . .'

Gordon gives this a modern twist - the Queen of Hearts is now our own Queen Mother. And a live jazz band will provide a 'very funky, Aretha Franklin feel': the Seven of Hearts sings the blues, the Playing Cards do a soft shoe shuffle, even the ghost of Marilyn Monroe is evoked.

The show creates its illusions almost entirely through the skills of the cast, who sing, act and do back-flips. 'We admit we're actors,' Gordon explains, 'but by doing that, hopefully we allow the dream to happen. ' The one nod to technology is a large cinema screen shaped like a book, which orchestrates our entry into Alice's dream world.

There's no interval (it would break the spell), but refreshments will be available throughout the 90 minutes. Just don't forget to pack your mushrooms.

'Alice in Wonderland' opens tomorrow, 7pm, Greenwich Old Royal Observatory Garden. Booking and enquiries: (0865 246000). To 6 Aug, then at Highbury Fields Aug 15-27

(Photograph omitted)

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