Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, dramatized by Hattie Naylor

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BBC Radio 7, 12 April 2009
Alice's descent into the underworld of her childish imagination seems ripe for radio production. With no need to worry about costumes, directors can focus on the surreal aspects of Carroll's story, in which anything can be made to mean anything. Director Sally Avens conjured up a world full of strange noises and bizarre sounds, forming an accompaniment to the dialogue. Wonderland resembled a jungle in which Alice (Sarah-Jane Holm) was perpetually at risk of having her head cut off at the Queen's (Mary Wimbush's) bidding. The Mad Hatter (Roy Hudd) was quite clearly deranged; his tea party offered him the chance to show off his megalomania as he took a sadistic pleasure in pouring hot tea on the dormouse's nose. The Mock Turtle (Geoffrey Whitehead) lived up to his name by mocking every phrase addressed to him. Alice herself seemed genuinely frightened by her experiences - even at the end of this two-part adaptation, when she towered over the Queen, she thought that she might be vulnerable to further attacks, both verbal and mental. Once she returned to her life of late-Victorian gentility, she joked with her governess about reentering her dream-world; however, her tremulous tones did not really suggest any enthusiasm at the prospect.
To restore some of the book's light-hearted tone, Avens placed considerable emphasis on Carroll's wordplay ("porpoise"/ "purpose"), and his use of figurative rather than literary meanings. She also created a series of vocal set pieces: the Mock Turtle's song "Beautiful Soup" was set to original music and delivered in quavering tones by Whitehead. Such devices reminded us that in spite of its dark echoes, Alice in Wonderland remains a fantasy appealing to children of all ages.