Mark: My Words - Q&A with Joey Tremblay, Writer/Director of 'The Alice Nocturne'

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009 at 12:00 am
Q: The Alice Nocturne combines the imaginative world of writer Lewis Carroll with the musical compositions of Frederic Chopin. What inspired you to bring these two 19th century artists together?
A: Creating theatre is about providing yourself with an intrigue or a point of entry, something tangible to work with. At the genesis of this project, we were faced with a blank canvas. I've always wanted to do something theatrical with the Alice books and I absolutely adore Chopin. So I placed them together and brought these intrigues to the ensemble.

You did a lot of research about Carroll's life and work-did any little-known facts about him arise and become an influence on the play?
A: I wanted our play to be a poetic response to his work, not a play about him or about his writing. I didn't want to retell his life or stage his books. However, after the first draft, I started to do some research about Carroll and the theatre of his era. I had a hunch that Carroll must have been influenced by some theatrical form. As it happens, Carroll was a voracious theatre patron. He particularly loved the British pantomime and various marionette theatres that were popular at the time. He also wrote and performed several marionette plays. He really loved to bring children to the theatre and watch the play through their eyes. This understanding of what profoundly amuses children comes across in his books and, I feel, is really an energy that permeates The Alice Nocturne.
We are not doing Alice in Wonderland the play. We are borrowing the Wonderland universe for our purpose. I think I really have to stress that this isn't an adaptation. This is an original work that has no intention of retelling the Alice books. We have our own narrative that seems to run parallel to the narrative created by Carroll.

Q: Alice the cat looks suspiciously like Disney's Alice in the animated film. Can you tell us a bit about that?
A: In truth, the Disney Alice looks suspiciously like John Tenniel's illustrations of Alice in the original publication. We are definitely working with a popular icon, though. We wanted everyone to see the character and know immediately who we are referencing. The twist in our production is that she isn't actually Alice ... she's a cat that has been transformed into the body of a little Victorian girl. We are tapping into the collective consciousness of the audience to connect the dots with our Alice and the Alice from Wonderland, without having to be extremely true to the original text.

Q: Any tips for your audiences on what they can expect, or how to get the most out of this play?
A: There's a good game you can do while you're watching. In the very first part of the play, we take a lot of time to set up a whole bunch of story points: in the text, the visuals, the sounds. There's a whole bunch of visual stuff in the props, sets, costumes, and text, and when Mabel falls into Wonderland, a lot of it gets expanded and reconstructed and used in different places. It's fun to see how it keeps going. One example is the Darwinian scientist, Alistair W. Faunsley, who later becomes the White Faun. There are way too many of these for people to catch all of them, but if you watch for pieces of the puzzle, you can see how it all comes together.

Mark ClaxtonMark Claxton is a Regina-based actor and writer who graduated from the Globe Theatre's inaugural Actor Conservatory Training Program in 2008. His blog will take you behind the Globe's scenes and around Regina's theatre scene throughout the 2009-10 theatre season.

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