Review: If Alice


New to Oxford’s theatre scene (I’m a fresher, and this is the first productive I have

seen in the Burton Taylor Studio and, Oxford for that matter), I didn’t quite know

what to expect when going to see ‘If Alice’, a play introduced by the Experimental

Theatre Club. I was pretty clueless in what the next forty five minutes entailed when

entering the intimate space of the Burton Taylor, sitting near the back cause my friend

was worried that ‘with all this experimental stuff they might make me do audience

participation’ (best just not to ask). Despite this anticipation, what followed was forty

five minutes of excellent theatre; a perfectly selected cast, a beautifully crafted script

and an honest portrayal of human relationships. If a play can make you laugh, and

then cry within the same five minutes it gets a thumbs up from me.

Written and directed by Jack Clover (winner of Best of Cuppers and Best New

Writing last year, so we’re already thinking big things), ‘If Alice’ follows the story of

a young twenty-something woman on the cusp of entering the serious side of

adulthood; settling down, having kids and getting yourself a job. Yet being the

‘Experimental Theatre Club’, this is done with more nuance than just simply exposing

the mundanity of Alice’s daily life in a linear fashion. It instead follows the

hypothetical situations of Alice’s life through a serious of short sketches ; ‘What if

Alice was less polite?’ and ‘What if Alice finished knitting that scarf’. ‘What if’s’ that

are all inspired by the writers own regrets, triumphs and fears, and ‘What if’s’ that we

all experience and we all constantly question ourselves with: what if I didn’t text him

that night?, what if I didn’t go to that party?, what if I didn’t even apply to the

university I’m at now?.

‘If Alice’ if an honest and modest portray of relationships; capturing the beautiful, the

harrowing and the uproarious aspects of life. A scene of heartbreak and goodbyes

suddenly switches to one of humour, and the audience are left at the end of the play

having experienced all the raw and tumultuous range emotions that are experienced

throughout their own life. In the space of forty five minutes. That Clover can capture

this through his direction and an elegant script (lines that describe children like ‘city

maps of their families’, for example) must be applauded. And even when there is no

script; moments where Alice and her boyfriend lie in complete silence, he manages to

offer a glimpse into the dynamics of natural human relationship. The emphasis on the

trivial: J Cloths, a mobile phone and Chilli con Carne, each hold their own

significance and the distorted interludes of The Ronnettes ‘Be My Baby’ becomes

haunting, foreshadowing the revelation of the end of the play.

As this all goes on, what also exists is an excellent cast. Playing Alice, Georgia Bruce

allows a character so seemingly ordinary become extraordinary in her handling of

emotions, her relationships with others and her inner regrets, fears and turmoils. Alice

is, completely human, and Bruce portrays this with an elegance and a consistency

throughout. Both Lamorna Ash and Aoife Cantrill exceed in their dulling of the role

of Alice’s iron- maiden loving boyfriend and pushy school parents, moving gracefully

through a varied range of characters by elegant changes in physicality, stylisation and

voice as they do so. A brief but wonderful appearance from Princess O’ Mahony, only

left the audience wanting to have seen more of her presence on stage.

‘If Alice’ is beautifully crafted introspection of human life and relationships, with a

cracking cast and script, and a wonderful use of the visual and sound (any play that

includes some sixties girl pop is guaranteed a positive review from me). If it’s not too

late, catch it while you can.

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