Review by Allison Vanek
50 min | Solo, Storytelling | G
Inevitably, solo shows live or die on the abilities of their performers, and The Hatter is no exception. In that department, writer and performer Andrew Wade doesn’t disappoint, but one can’t help but wish that he’d written himself better material to work with.
Wade embodies the character of the Mad Hatter perfectly. He’s high-energy, even with a pretty low-energy audience, he never breaks character, and his impressions of the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland are fantastic. He’s also really wonderful at improvisation. My favourite part of the whole show was when he asked an audience member to name a made up song, and one lady gave him “Doodlebug” and he improv’d an entire song about doodlebugs. His enunciation was superb, giving him wonderful command of the tricky language, although the terrible acoustics in the church basement in which the show took place didn’t do him any favours.
However, even Wade’s considerable talents as a performer couldn’t save what is otherwise for the most part a confusing, jumbled, and chaotic production. The Hatter is basically an hour-long stream of consciousness monologue from the point of view of the Mad Hatter, and at times is almost like listening to the therapy sessions of an incoherent schizophrenic. It is not until about ten minutes from the end of the show that things start to become clear, the story starts to make sense, and any sort of logic or plot structure is introduced. When it does though, the themes are dark, powerful, and frighteningly mundane. Not to give the ending away, but it turns out the Mad Hatter is mad for a reason, and his story is a compelling one, even if it does end up being too little too late.
A note on the rating. Though the show is rated G, and is about a character from a children’s story, the show is not really aimed at children. There is quite a bit of audience interaction, with singing and role-playing, but the show is hard to follow, generally dark and depressing, and some of its themes include alcoholism and domestic abuse. While not inappropriate for children, I don’t think it would really be all that enjoyable for them.
The Hatter is playing at BYOV-I St. Paul’s Eastern United Church at 473 Cumberland St. on Friday June 21st at 17:45, Saturday June 22nd at 16:00, Tuesday June 25th at 21:00, Wednesday June 26th at 17:45, Thursday June 27th at 17:45, Friday June 28th at 17:45, Saturday June 29th at 16:00, and Sunday June 30th at 21:45.