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Two days to Sognando Alice – that is, A Dream of Alice…

Rehearsals tonight, dress tomorrow – and Saturday we go onstage. We just got the hedges in the nick of time, and I’m not sure if and when the back platform will be mounted, and the overall pace and rhythm still aren’t quite what they ought to be, and the Duck’s mask has proved highly unpractical, and there’s that change they still botch every damn time, and last night sudden blanks appeared where there used to be none, and the magnets for the tea arrived in time but just don’t work, and how on earth do I keep the damn pudding steady, and there are moments when I want to hyperventilate, and can I have one more month? A week? Two days? Please…?

So… On the whole, everything quite normal, I’d say.

Oh – and I forgot: I’m writing this post while I wait for the paint to dry on the White Queen’s crown…

Because yes, as is often the way with small companies, we all end up doing a bit of everything on occasion – and, Alice being the kind of play it is, I’ve been recruited into making a few props.

And as I tinkered away with cardboard, felt, and paints, I’ve had confirmation of something I already suspected about myself – ever since the time I made the salt-dough voodoo doll* for Sweets to the Sweet: I just can’t help myself.

You see, I learned early on that what can’t be seen from the audience, just doesn’t exist. And this holds true for scenery, costumes, props… and this is where I just can’t help myself. Whether it is a plateful of colourful cardboard biscuits, or the White King’s notebook, or the Queen of Heart’s roses, I just have to add little touches here and there. So the biscuits are all different, and read “Eat Me” and there is a small crown etched on the notebook’s cover,  and some of the white roses are spattered with red splotches, and…

And I know that these details, technically speaking, don’t exist. So, why do I insist on adding them? Well, on the one hand, I’ve found that they delight the actors. They find them on their prop or bit of costume, and they love them – and that’s never a bad thing. On the other hand, the crafter in me just likes to thinker. But there is more. It seems to me that these small things have a role in building the play’s world, in adding that tiny facet to a character. I love to think of the White Rabbit’s Mary-Ann baking and decorating the biscuits just to her fussy master’s taste. And I love to see the White King as the sort who will have little crowns etched on everything – but everything. And to imagine the Five of Clubs fretting about the splotches made by its (his?) more happy-go-lucky colleagues… So when one of my actors** enthuses about a small detail, I always make a point to prod her or him to think what the detail might tell about the character, to see whether they can incorporate that into their interpretation…

And so… And mind, at the stage we are, I’d better push aside my craftey notions, and keep to what exist, theatrically speaking. But I have to wonder: if  “Eat Me” written in fake icing on a cardboard biscuit gives the White Rabbit a better sense of his rabbity horror when his beloved home is invaded by a monster little girl, then couldn’t it be argued that “Eat Me”, if only in a rather roundabout way, does exist?


* Which sounds, I’m aware, exceedingly macabre – but… you know, theatre.

** My actors! I’m still new enough at it that it thrills me to write it: my actors!