Theatre Review: Mad Alice

18th October 2019

Mad Alice

Mad Alice by Victoria Delaney (Off The Rock Productions) Review by Ian Giles

Victoria Delaney’s new play Mad Alice is an inventive re-imagining of the life of one of York’s legendary and mysterious figures: the mad Alice of Mad Alice Lane.

Its first scene is set in the bar of the Mucky Duck (aka The White Swan Inn on Goodramgate) in 1825. The opening duologue between the inn’s landlord Robert Johnson (Keir Brown) and his cousin William Smith (Bill Laughey) is simultaneously expository while cleverly developing character and establishing male dominance in this society. Meanwhile, the eponymous heroine (Victoria Delaney) sweeps up, occasionally bursting into her slightly deranged rendition of ‘What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?’, a motif that reoccurs throughout taking the story on via its lyrics. The devious opportunist, Betsy Miller ((Ellen Carnazza) bides her time behind the bar while Father Joseph (Ian Archdeacon) sits ineffectually drinking milk in a corner. The symbolism becomes obvious but is lightly handled and the action develops smoothly.

Mad Alice

The second scene is of Alice’s trial (for what? – you will have to come and see to find out) and is unconventional and expertly led by Brown, ably supported by Carnazza. Here Delaney as Alice comes to the fore and we discover her back story and a possible reason for her madness, rooted in the unfortunate end to a happy childhood.

In the final scene, the denouement surprises us with plot twists before the play’s gruesome conclusion.

Delaney’s performance as Alice shines in a fine company that bats right down the order; two supporting but important roles are as strongly cast as the rest (take a bow Sonia Di Lorenzo and Matt Pattison) and the whole makes for another invigorating evening’s theatre. Off the Rock Productions are to be congratulated for airing this play at 41 Monkgate, which must surely now be York’s premier fringe venue.

Mad Alice

Mad Alice is at the John Cooper Studio 41 Monkgate 16-19 October at 7:30pm, with a 2:30pm matinee on Saturday 19th. Tickets can be booked below or bought on the door.

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