Cast and crew of an Alice in Wonderland-inspired production set in the 1990s are celebrating after a sell out run.
Welcome to Wonderland, staged by Minerva Youth Theatre, is an adaptation of the classic story, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Cultural references to the 1990s range from featuring the Madchester scene to a musical Cheshire Cat turned DJ.
The show has numerous Chester and Cheshire links, having been written by former Gateway Theatre Associate Director and writer Jim Johnson, who was guest of honour at one performance. Meanwhile, Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Carroll also lived in the village of Daresbury, Cheshire, for the first 11 years of his life.
And Minerva Youth Theatre leader and artistic director at Minerva Arts, Steph Brocken was assistant director on the original production of Welcome to Wonderland.
Steph said: “This year’s extravaganza was a rebirth of an interpretation of Alice in Wonderland originally performed at the Gateway theatre in 2004, written by Jim Johnson the then associate director of Chester Gateway Theatre and the Chester Gateway Youth Theatre company.
“We at Minerva Arts have been working tirelessly since 2011 to build this group into a major creative force in Chester. This show is a landmark for us and served as a showcase for just how talented, creative and hard-working our young people are.”
Several performances were put on at the Kingsway Buildings, part of The University of Chester’s arts and media campus. Steph Brocken said that money raised from the production was absorbed back into the organisation to make its work bigger and better.
Steph added: “Audience members loved the performances and commented on the ‘unexpected new twists’, how the show ‘captured the surreal perfectly’ and how much this was a ‘great youth theatre performance’, which is a great testament to the part that these young people are playing in the continued cultural life of Chester.”
Steph added that they were honoured to be joined by the show’s writer, Jim Johnson, at one of their performances. She said that Jim, who now heads up Oldham-based arts organisation Peshkar Productions, praised the cast and spoke about how the members of Minerva Youth Theatre were the future of the arts in Chester. He also spoke about the importance of celebrating and investing in young people and the arts, as well as lobbying politicians both nationally and locally to ensure the arts and young people were central to their plans and decisions.
Minerva Youth Theatre, which was established in 2011, will be staging their next performances in July, when they will be joining forces with Chester Little Theatre’s Youth Theatre as part of a collaborative celebration of youth theatre.
Any young people interested in getting involved with Minerva Youth Theatre are invited to get in touch. The age seven to 11 group meet every Saturday 10am-12pm at the Cheshire Military Museum and the Seniors’ company (age 11+) meet every Wednesday 7pm-9pm at the Kingsway Buildings, University of Chester.