The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

is not quite pitch perfect in its attempt to hit all possible multiple demographics with its co-mingling of stunts, jokes, acrobatics and party tricks but it's close enough that you can confidently call it psychedelically infused fun for the whole family.

Some of the jokes, especially the double entendres, are shocking enough to elicit a sideways glance to see if you really heard what you definitely heard - and to make sure your children have no idea what's going on.

The shows influences are, broadly, circus, musical, stand-up comedy and, obviously, also the wild mind-wanderings that comprise the source material, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


The problem with circus-inspired stage shows, at least from a cynical adult's point of view, is that Cirque du Soleil has so flooded the market with audacious and frequently dangerous stunt-driven choreography that we're increasingly resistant to their wonders.

For kids though, and those parents willing and parentally gifted enough to set aside their cynicism and watch The Mad Hatter's Tea Party through their children's eyes, the choreography is difficult enough, exciting enough and dangerous enough to elicit joy.

There is a loose storyline but what ties the show together is really the MC/narrator/provocateur that is the Mad Hatter (Eloise Green) herself. Long before the show has even begun, she is already circulating among the on-stage portion of the audience, fussing around, telling jokes and generally setting the tone.

The fact there is an onstage portion of the audience at all is clear and early evidence of the amount of thought that has gone into creating the show. Most of the performance takes place on a raised catwalk in the centre of the stage, with the rest of the space entirely taken up by the audience. It gives the show intimacy and allows performers to disappear among and around the onstage audience and to manufacture audience reactions to create atmosphere, which they frequently do.

This level of thought has gone into the show from many angles: the spread and pacing of the acrobatics, the song and dance numbers, jokes, on-stage banter and audience interaction.

What ties it together though, and makes it a coherent, delightful whole, is the slightly unhinged, unpredictable, occasionally hilarious Mad Hatter, a performer worthy of having a show named after her.

What: The Mad Hatter's Tea Party
Where & when: Bruce Mason Centre, until Sunday
Reviewed by: Greg Bruce