Review: Scroogelicious and Alice In Wonderland

James Haddrell, artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre

Last week I was lucky enough to catch a schools’ matinee of Scroogelicious at Theatre Peckham. One of the many takes on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol currently running in the capital, this version places the action firmly in its local area, with property developer Ebony Scrooge (KM Drew Boateng) determined to gentrify Peckham regardless of the impact on the local community. Cue a series of visits from ghosts, first the departed founder of his firm Marlene Jacobs (get it?) played by Tomi Egbowon-Ogunjobi, then past (Siphiwo Mahlentle), present (Ellie Clayton) and future (the young performer Tara-Binta Collins the day I was in).

The musical adaptation of the story, with words by Geoff Aymer and lyrics by Jordan Xavier, follows the well-trodden path, with Ebony finding his redemption when confronted by the result of his actions, but what sets this production apart is the large company of community performers included in the show. With five professionals easily outnumbered by thirteen young local performers (twenty-six in all as they alternate as a company), the stage is really owned by them – and for the audience of school children that I shared the auditorium with, that brought its own level of excitement. There can be little more inspirational for young theatregoers than seeing their contemporaries on stage given the same profile as the professionals.

It would be unfair to single out any of the young people as they all owned the stage in their own ways, so it is more appropriate to celebrate the Theatre Peckham Academy in general, for giving rise to such talent and confidence. For me, one of the keys to a great festive show can be found in the links it forges with its local community, and Theatre Peckham is surely way ahead of the competition in that regard.

Meanwhile, with so many theatres across London taking classic tales and reimagining them for Christmas, one that stands out from the crowd has to be Alice In Wonderland at Brixton House. Co-produced by Brixton House and theatre company Poltergeist, this version of Lewis Carroll’s classic family tale has been brought right up to date, with Alice escaping from an argument with her mum by disappearing into the London Underground, trapped on a train ruled over by the Queen and populated by a host of just-about-recognisable characters. Handy, then, that Alice carries a copy of Carroll’s original book with her.

In this production, the White Rabbit is a shy, office-bound passenger, the Cheshire Cat is an elusive hacker and the Mad Hatter used to drive the train until the Queen took over. The show also boasts an apparently endless stream of underground puns (all good ones) and a clever resolution based around the caterpillar in the original story, Alice’s skills as a rapper and an audience sing-along.

As a theatre producer, the thing we are always looking for at this time of year, the golden ticket, is a show that appeals to children and adults alike, the equivalent of the Doctor Who Christmas special. It seems to me that Brixton’s Alice has found the perfect formula. While I watched the show at a schools’ matinee (with plenty of shouting, singing and laughing from the audience) I loved different moments of the show to the large groups of school children. In particular, this Wonderland is shown as a dystopian world where passengers on the train are gradually turned into ‘commuters’ – faceless, blind, zombie-like people whose personalities and motives have all disappeared. For the children in the audience this was sinister (but never too frightening). For the adults, there’s a strong message about being ground down by routine and a warning about being hostage to those in authority. Directed with pace and imagination in a traverse space not unlike a tube carriage I’d say, all in all, this is the perfect Christmas show.

Picture: Toyin Ayedun-Alase (Chatter) and Nkhanise Phiri (Alice) in Alice In Wonderland at Brixton House; Photo credit Helen Murray

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.