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Why can’t you ask for an autograph from the Cheshire Cat?

In January, 150 children from Tartu, Tallinn, Ida-Viru County, and Jõgeva County safe houses and substitute homes visited the Endla Theatre, in Pärnu, where they watched the children’s play “Alice in Wonderland”, which is based on Lewis Carroll’s famous book.

Alice’s trip to Wonderland has engaged children with its weird happenings time and again. Older children have seen the films and read the book and now they had a good chance to compare their interpretation with that on the stage. They were reminded of colourful characters, such as the Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Caterpillar, and the Queen of Hearts. The children were excited: how will this story appear on the stage, how can Alice become small or big?

The theatre house was already quite an experience!

Although children from most families have made frequent visits to the theatre, many of them crossed the threshold of the Endla Theatre for the first time. As they approached Pärnu, children from one family remembered their summer visit to Lotte Village. That was when one could swim in the sea! Now the sea had been replaced with a big ice field; many of the children wandering on the beach boldly tried to break the ice before the play, but when they saw the big chunks of ice, they realised that this was a pointless endeavour.

Exploring the theatre house was also quite an experience: where is my seat, where can I get a pillow for the seat, how to find the toilet, etc. 

Kevin, who is into acting, thoughtfully considered: where shall I work when I grow up – for Ugala in Viljandi or for Endla in Pärnu? This question was left unsolved for the time being. Instead, the boy invited the teacher to the balcony to view Jüri Arrak’s painting of Lydia Koidula – this picture truly engaged the boy. Together they also viewed the photos of the actors and checked the programme to see who would be performing that day.

Does Alice really fly by herself?

When it went dark at the beginning of the play, some smaller children – for whom the theatre experience was totally new –tightly gripped their teacher’s hand, shaking. The play was, however, exciting, and engaged their full attention because the action took place partly within the auditorium and the whole stage was full of hustle and bustle. If some children were previously in a bad mood and made some noise, their grumpiness magically disappeared in Alice’s wonderland.

During the play, the smaller children inquired a lot about what they were seeing. Is there really water on the stage behind that curtain? Is Alice flying by herself or is she lifted with something? Does the invisible cat really exist? 

Tanja and Ele were discussing that they could also end up in such a land where things are done entirely differently. In a place full of exciting adventures and weirdly strange creatures. Aleksandra was greatly touched that the Mock Turtle went through incredible physical changes on land and he could not go back to the bottom of the sea nor to the school that he really missed. The Mock Turtle was remembered by many: he talked so vividly about his school, where the classes included, among others, doing laundry, grooming, scolding and praising, thrashing, droning, and rowing...

Everyone found their favourite

Martin and Mihhail liked the Queen of Hearts, who was always commanding for heads to be taken off. In fact, everybody kept their head. Andra thought that the Cheshire Cat was a peculiar creature because only his big smiling face could be seen.

Svetlana, who attends ballet classes, was interested in the dance numbers just like Allan, who is also into dancing. Mario remembered the funniest texts because he also has a good sense of humour. Kevin, who wants to become an actor, kept an eye on the work and cooperation of actors. He was especially impressed by Alice falling into a hole: actress Fatme was hanging above the stage, suspended with ropes...

Andrias, who had kept to himself for the entire bus ride, without saying a word, talked about his fantastic experiences with his eyes glowing after the play. The entire play left a very deep impression on him, he had also recognised his old acquaintances from the TV screen. 

Another child who is usually very afraid of loud music, darkness, and gunshots, really enjoyed Alice’s play and later went to the actors with his programme to ask for their autographs.

Books, autographs, and dreams

Every family received a copy of “Alice in Wonderland” as a gift. Lots of buzz was created as the children could ask for autographs from the actors after the play, and they could let them sign this beautiful new book! 

Kevin could not understand why he could not ask the Cheshire Cat for an autograph. Thus it had to be discussed how this virtual character appeared on the wall. Once this was clear, the boy was obviously glad to get autographs from the Queen and the Knave. 

A child with a less vivid imagination can now draw some magic from the play when reading the book: they will definitely remember the characters from the stage.

On the way back, many fell asleep and due to the influence of the play got into a dream world that was similar to that of Alice or even cooler...

Theatre evenings usually have this effect that when a pertinent book exists, it shall be read again excitedly. In many families, “Alice in Wonderland” became the book of the night that the children and the teacher read to one another in turns before going to bed.


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