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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 371

updated
Saturday, 23 October 2004

Phoebe Carlo as Alice
in
Alice in Wonderland,
produced at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, London,
Thursday afternoon, 23 December 1886

Phoebe Carlo

Phoebe Carlo as Alice and Dorothy D'Alcourt as the Dormouse

(photo: Barraud, London, 1886)

Alice in Wonderland, 1886


'Mr. Savile Clarke has achieved a wonderful and surprising success; he has given the little folk this winter a genuine children's pantomime and founded it upon that marvellous and delightful book of which no one ever grows weary, Alice in Wonderland. There was not a little excitement and curiosity as to how this venture would turn out, but the hearty applause and shouts of laughter which greeted the first performance on Thursday afternoon, December 23, must have convinced the most confirmed Didymus that the idea was as good as it was happy. Alice in Wonderland will not appeal to the children alone, it will be patronised, and largely too, by the older members of the community, unless I am very much mistaken, who will go to join their laughter with the youngsters, and appreciate once again the simple, yet subtle, wit of Lewis Carroll's inimitable work. Considering the difficulty he laboured under in giving a concise representation, Mr. Savile Clark has done wonders. The story runs glibly, opening with a chorus of fairies surrounding Alice asleep in a chair beneath a tree, from there we progress splendidly, making a new acquaintance with all our old friends, the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar, the duchess with her Baby, the Cook with her reckless use of pepper, the Cheshire Cat with his remarkable smile, the Hatter, the Hare, and the Dormouse, who have their perpetual tea party, and treat Alice to conundrums and unconventional rudeness. Then comes a long and brilliant procession, which should fill Alice's heart with awe, if not with admiration, but our heroine is nothing daunted by this large crowd. "Why, they're only a pack of cards," she says, "I needn't be afraid of them?" and so she answers the sanguinary-minded queen of Hearts, in a reckless manner, and refuses to see heads knocked off in such profusion. She then dances with the Cards in a graceful gavotte, and afterwards protects her old friend, the Cheshire Cat, from an underserved execution. The Gryphon and Mock Turtle then appear, and Alice receives some hints as to a sea education, and the first act of the dream play for children ends with the trial of the Knave of Hearts for eating the tarts, in which Alice's verdict of acquittal is unanimously passed.
'In the second act, Mr. Savile Clarke takes us to another book, Through the Looking-glass, and Alice is introduced to the chessmen and Chorus, who dance stiffly for her delectation, then the Red Queen gives her some advice after she has spoken to the live flowers, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear. She soon makes friends with these massive twins, and pleads hard when they determine to have a mortal combat, but all to no purpose, and so after she has witnessed the greedy Carpenter and Walrus devour their daily portion of oysters, she assists in arming Tweedledum and Tweedledee for the fray. The arrival of a Crow sends the warriors to speedy flight, and Humpty Dumpty appears on his wall, and so the play goes on until we see Alice once more asleep in her chair, and hear her wake to say, "Oh! I've had such a curious dream!"
'The play is beautifully mounted, and splendidly acted, Miss Phbe Carlo being very successful as the little heroine. That so young a child should remember the long part, is in itself a wonderful feat, but the young actress did more than this, she played in a delightful and thoroughly artistic fashion, and in the this respect she was closely followed by a tiny mite, Miss Dorothy D'Alcort, who play first the Dormouse, then an Oyster, and lastly, the Plum Pudding.
'The celebrated Rosa troupe were to the fore in dancing, and a host of clever bright children worked hard to give their young brethren a treat. Mr. Edgar Bruce, Mr. Walter Slaughter (who has written some charming music for the piece), and Mr. Savile Clark, all deserve unstinted praise for their new venture at the Prince of Wales's Theatre.'
(E.R., The Theatre, London, Saturday, 1 January 1887, pp.48-50)

Alice in Wonderland, 1886


two members of Mdlle. Rosas Dancing Dolls Troupe

(photo: unknown, possibly London, circa 1883)

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John Culme, 2004