Sunday, 21 May 2017

Alice in Wonderland at Storyhouse Chester - A Review


My family and I were invited to one of the opening productions of Alice in Wonderland this weekend that is being held at the brand new modern venue Storyhouse based in Chester.

A welcome addition to the city centre, Storyhouse features an 800 seat auditorium, a 200 seat studio theatre, cinema, library, restaurant and two bars. It is based within the old 1930's Odeon building which has been extensively restored into a spectacular new arts venue for Chester. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect inside, but was pleasantly surprised by the modern and trendy design throughout the building and absolutely loved the concept and idea of it all. It offers a fantastic community space and will be somewhere that we definitely return to as a family in the near future.

In terms of location it is really easy to find being located near the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and Chester Cathedral. There is plenty of parking available in several nearby car parks, however we chose to use the park and ride facility which cost us £3 to park at Sealand Road and for a return ticket on the bus, costing us less that it would have done to have parked in the city centre. The buses run approximately every 15 mins and Storyhouse was located literally just across the road from the bus stop that we arrived at. The outside of the building is very eye-catching with a modern edge and the large glass panelled windows are immediately noticeable. When we entered the venue, there was a noticeable buzz about the place with many guests who all seemed excited about the new venue and the facilities it offers.

Suprisingly there is no box office here, with the venue opting for the use of modern technology to provide ticketing and listing options at touch screen points within the building. Alternatively you can book online as we did and then either print your tickets at home, or simply show them your ticket on your mobile phone. We chose the latter option and had no issue accessing the theatre or finding our seats. Whilst some people may prefer to have a go to point such as a box office, we actually liked the simple technology factor and found that there were ample amounts of staff within the building who could assist if need be, so there are still 'humans' that can help you should the technology provide any difficulties.

In relation to staff I must say that every person we encountered was really courteous and helpful. We were unsure which way to go to get to the theatre and our lost faces must have been obvious as before we could ask for help, someone came over to us and offered their assistance. I thought that this was great as it shows that staff were alert and looking for guests to help as opposed to just waiting to be found. I also witnessed one member of staff assist a lady with children at the ticket machine and then guide her all the way to the theatre. Excellent customer service!

Whilst walking through the lower level we made our way through the library which offered a fantastic wide range of books. There was also plenty of seating with coffee tables so that you could grab a drink whilst reading. Being such a busy place it doesn't really offer the quietness of a traditional library, however I don't think this would put me off visiting for a read of a book and it would be an ideal area to grab a coffee if I had arrived early for a show. There was also some fun technology points which were basically giant computer screens on the wall and Emma and Ben enjoyed writing and drawing in different colours.

On entry to the theatre we found it to be a lovely space and the seats in the circle area were all well tiered so that children will always be able to see the stage regardless of how tall the person in front of them is. The lighting was just right to be able to find your seats with ease and they were very comfortable. Our seats were in the Circle on Row B which offered an excellent view of the stage, I would have preferred slightly more leg room but for a two hour show it was more than adequate. If I had been able to select specific seats then I would have chosen the centre of Row A in the circle which in my opinion offers the best view.

The production of Alice in Wonderland features an array of talent, with numerous cast members taking on multi-roles throughout the show. In what seemed like a slightly slow start to begin with, the show soon gathered pace and we were transported with Alice into the magical world of mystery, confusion and madness, that was Wonderland. The adaptation allowed some philosophical thinking for adults, an easy to follow story for children, along with some family friendly humour in parts. It offered a creative interpretation into the well known and much loved story of Alice in Wonderland and was very enjoyable to watch.

The acting was fantastic, as were the musical interludes that the cast provided on a range of instruments with the added fun addition of kazoos! Some scenes were particularly more enjoyable than others and my children had two stand out favourites which both took place in the first half. The first was a very hectic part of the show that featured 'The Duchess' whose lunges and squats around the stage created a lot of giggles as well as gasps when she completed a standing split. The second was the tea party scene, which had a nice comedy element as well as wonderful props. Alex Mugnaioni was brilliant as The Mad Hatter and played the character superbly.

The show lasted just under 2 hours in total and although I had chosen not to bring my son Riley (age 4) with us, there were plenty of children that were toddler age (and even babies) that seemed captivated by the show for the full length of time. The first half was slightly longer than the second and the interval allowed enough time for toilet breaks or to purchase snacks and drinks. A lady did come out on the floor by the stage to also sell ice creams, which had the usual inflated price tag of £2.50 a tub, however they were delicious and I was pleased to see that they were supporting other local businesses in selling Cheshire Ice Cream.

Overall we had a really enjoyable time at Storyhouse. The building was fantastic, staff were helpful, and the production was wonderful. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for this venue.

Listing details:

The team behind Stig of the Dump, The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden bring you a heartfelt, joyful production of Lewis Carroll's much-loved classic tale. With a host of colourful characters we know and love (and a few new ones to meet!) leading the adventure around a surreal world, it's the perfect opportunity to fall down the rabbit-hole with Storyhouse this summer.

Venue - Storyhouse, Hunter St, Chester, CH1 2AR

Dates - 19th May to 20th August 2017 with various show times and ticket prices.

For more information or to book tickets please visit www.storyhouse.com

Their social media pages can be found at:

Twitter: @StoryhouseLive
Facebook: www.facebook.com/storyhouselive
Instagram: @StoryhouseLive

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets to provide an honest review of the venue and production. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

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