BWW REVIEW: Rabbit Holes Make Way For Portals To Hell In The Hilarious Horror Of ALICE IN SLASHERLAND
Saturday 20 April 2019, 7:30pm, Old Fitz Theatre
Lewis and Alice are a world away from the sweet fantasy world of Carroll's famous story as benevolent white rabbits and mischievous disappearing cats are replaced with malevolent hessian headed horrors and horny talking teddy bears in Qui Nguyen's ALICE IN SLASHERLAND. Directed by Rachel Kerry, this homage to B-Grade teen horror films and pop culture comes to life with equal simplicity which makes it all the more amusing.
Instead of telling his best friend Margaret Mia Morressey) he loves her, high school geek Lewis (Bardiya McKinnon) finds himself playing a Halloween game with party host Tina (Laura Murphy). While he leaves the party alone, Lewis doesn't realize that the childhood chant has actually been successful and opened the portal to hell, referenced in Revelations 20:13, and released the dead, particularly Satan's emissaries, a demonic group of hessian headed beasts. One of their previous victims, Alice (Stella Ye) is also revived and seeks to reject the evil embedded in her when she was murdered by the hessian headed half man half rabbit Jacob (Josh McElroy) 20 years ago. Lewis, with the help of Margaret and the revived Alice and her demonic tough talking teddy bear Edgar (voiced and operated by Justin Amankwah with bear created by Indi Redding) must close the rift between Los Angeles and Hades before his middle-class suburb is decimated by death's masked minions.
Lauren Peters has created a seemingly simple set of grimy once white walls with remnants of painted over textured wallpaper that adds to the mystery before they gradually give up their secrets. Mobile panels allow spaces for Susan Henderson's video projections that tie the work to its movie inspirations as well as nerdy video blogger Lewis' undersubscribed posts. The positioning of the panels, which shift the space from school corridors to homes and the obligatory deserted road don't always line up with the Chapter titles though, making some of the text driven humor unreadable. Given the intimate size of the theatre, some of the projections could conceivably be shrunk to fit onto a single panel to ensure that it was still legible from all angles in the audience.
Kate Beere's costume design does well at providing an economical expression of teen and horror movie tropes. Lewis' Halloween costume is inspired whilst Margaret and Tina are presented with outfits that play into the teenage stereotype whilst following common themes as they shift through the various scenes. Margaret in short cheerleader type outfits and Tina in skintight sequined ensembles. Alice initially resembles something out of The Ring in the tattered remains of the nightgown she was murdered in and then adopts the attire of a teenage boy's wet dream as Lewis finds clothes for her which Margaret hypocritically criticizes. The demons are appropriately grotesque and mysterious and carry a common theme with the rabbit headed slayer.As with the movies that inspired ALICE IN SLASHERLAND, the performances aren't polished but the ensemble do well at finding the balance between seeming second rate and being convincing enough to heighten the humor and the tension along with handling the unscripted moments with comic in-character improv saves. McKinnon is suitably geeky as Lewis, making it believable that he is the school bookworm shunned by everyone bar Margaret. Morrissey channels Anne Hathaway's ugly ducking transition in the Princess diaries to present the girl that has friend-zoned Lewis as she seeks acceptance with the popular kids. Following on from her portrayal of nutty Lenora in CRY BABY, Murphy easily takes on the sex crazed Tina and delivers a brilliant cabaret musical theatre inspired introduction for the vampish Lucy/Lucifer. Amankwah is fabulous as the man behind the two-foot teddy Edgar, manipulating the puppet and giving him a smart-mouth sassy voice, drawing on the stereotypes of an African American hip hop bad boys. Ye's dance training plays a large role in her expression of the possessed Alice as she skitters around the stage when ready to 'feed' and boldly engages in battles with the other Emissaries and Daemons. McElroy isn't required to say much as the rabbit headed killer, but his physicality is suitably imposing to cause the audience to still flinch regardless of how absurd the plot gets. Additional characters, from school bullies, other demons, and possessed bodies are presented by Jack Angwin who utilizes his brief moments well, presenting the caricatures with quick simplicity so as to not drag the story.
The impact of the horror 'effects' will naturally be influenced by the audience's suggestibility but regardless ALICE IN SLASHERLAND is a great piece of fun theatre that will have you laughing, both at the performance and with the performers with the occasional gasp and shriek of surprise. Particularly amusing for those that remember the budget horror films and teen flicks of the 90's, this is well worth catching, whether you are a teen or a teen at heart.
Photographs: Robert Catto