REVIEW: Alice in Lockdown (Heartbreak Productions) at Brighton Open Air Theatre

141 days. One hundred and forty one days! Until Monday, that’s how long anyone in our house had gone without setting foot in a theatre. And since Mrs Mummy and Crotchet both gave what turned out to be our last pre-lockdown show a miss, it’s been more than 150 of both of them. 156, precisely, since we went to see a show as a family of four. So what a feeling it was to walk into Brighton Open Air Theatre together on Monday evening to watch Alice in Lockdown.

It was our first trip to this venue and it was well worth the drive down to the sunny Sussex coast to break our theatre drought, despite Mummy’s weather app taunting her all week about the risk of rain. Thankfully (since we totally failed to pack raincoats anyway) sunhats and sun-cream were the order of the day. And masks, of course. Luckily our exciting new stagey masks had arrived just in time, so we were spoilt for choice. Crotchet even managed a mask change during the interval because she couldn’t decide between her meerkat and Matilda masks. But, as ever, Mummy digresses. The review must go on….

Alice in Lockdown is a re-worked production of Alice in Wonderland (written by Dani Carbery and directed by Scott Worsfold) which gives the Lewis Carroll classic an extra loopy lockdown twist. To allow the touring production to travel by bubble, it sees the cast shrink down from five to two, which just adds to the madness (with Alice played by Abigail Castleton while Jason Ryall energetically takes on every other role – except Tweedledum and Tweedledee, for which he needs a little help from the audience – socially distanced of course.)

Alice and her Dad are off to Wonderland theme park for her birthday. They should be in Spain but that’s off the cards for obvious reasons. The theme park’s not all it’s cracked up to be either. Pretty much everything is closed, except a giant chess board. Alice would much rather be at home on her iPad. But when Dad heads off in pursuit of a talking rabbit, Alice somehow finds herself entering a weird world filled with strange creatures and talking chess pieces, from which she can only escape by beating the Red Queen at chess. Can she make it across the board and back to Dad? And will she hold onto her head in the process?

This pantomime-influenced show is fun for all the family, managing to stay quintessentially Carroll while also being unmistakably of our time. From Captain Tom and hand sanitiser to homeschool horrors and Joe Wicks workouts, it’s absolutely jam-packed with coronavirus cliches that will resonate with adults and children alike (plus a Prince Andrew gag that landed so well with the adults that the munchkins would not stop asking us what was so funny!)

The script is sharp, the direction perfectly paced and it’s all delivered with bundles of energy by the onstage duo, who bounce brilliantly off each other and the audience. It’s hard to pick a favourite of Ryall’s many roles as he lurches between (amongst others) a bouncy white rabbit, a Geordie caterpillar with a penchant for Pot Noodles and the terrifying masked Red Queen, but his Joe Wicks impression went down very well amongst audience members of all ages. Mummy also especially enjoyed the eggsellent wordplay in the Humpty Dumpty scene and the Act 1 closing number “Living La Vida Lockdown” sung by Ryall’s Mad Matador.

We had a great time at Brighton Open Air Theatre, and Crotchet immediately asked when we would be going back! It was the perfect way to kick of a season of outdoor show-going and we would thoroughly recommend Alice in Lockdown to anyone looking for a fun, family show. It’s a hilariously topical treat which couldn’t be more 2020 if it tried. The production is touring the country throughout August, so dust off your picnic basket and make a very important date with Heartbreak Productions for a special unbirthday celebration.

We saw Alice in Lockdown at Brighton Open Air Theatre on Monday 3 August 2020. For tour dates and tickets head to: