Red Rose Chain to live stream Alice in Wonderland production this December

Red Rose Chain's popular Alice in Wonderland performance will be given the digital treatment this ye

Red Rose Chain's popular Alice in Wonderland performance will be given the digital treatment this year due to lockdown restrictions Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant

Starring in the leading role will be West End actress Joanna Sawyer – who, prior to lockdown, was performing in Wicked.

Joanna Sawyer, who was previously performing in Wicked on the West End's prior to lockdown, will sta

Joanna Sawyer, who was previously performing in Wicked on the West End's prior to lockdown, will star as Alice in the leading role Picture: Red Rose Chain - Credit: Archant

Suffolk-based theatre company Red Rose Chain has announced its annual Christmas production will be streamed online this year - following on from the success of its virtual performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

From Friday December 18 until Sunday January 3, audiences will be able to stream the theatre’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland from the comfort of their homes.

Recalling how smoothly Red Rose Chain’s first streamed performance went back in August, founder and artistic director Joanna Carrick said: “It was amazing, but also terrifying because it was all new technology, and we knew that everybody was going to join us on the night.

“But it ended up being incredible. We had over 5,000 people with us on that first night, and over 7,000 people watched it in total. People had picnics set up in their gardens and put up screens outdoors. It was such a wonderful way to connect with our audience.”

With the performance raising over £25,000 in donations for its community work, Red Rose Chain knew that if theatres were unable to reopen by Christmas, it would definitely be an option worth considering again.

“Around the time we screened Twelfth Night, we were starting to think ahead for the winter season. We had Wind in the Willows scheduled for this Christmas, which is a new adaptation that I’ve written, but we’ve put that on hold for the following year as it’s quite a special, new script, and we want to do it live.

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“So we had the idea that we could go back to my adaptation of Alice in Wonderland from two years ago. It’s our most popular Christmas show - people love the story and connect with it in different ways, remembering it from their childhoods.”

Red Rose Chain also realised that even if it could reopen this winter, it would have to limit the number of people who would be able to attend its shows.

“Our venue, The Avenue, is small, so for socially-distanced audiences, it would be tiny in there, and we obviously want to connect with more people than that. We have a lot of older people, vulnerable people and people with disabilities who enjoy theatre, and we’re very much about engaging with everybody in the community. Keeping everyone safe is absolutely our number one priority.”

As well as managing to keep everyone safe by putting on a green screen technology performance, Red Rose Chain has also been able to help keep the local theatre industry afloat by employing a number of actors and workers for this year’s production who might not have had work otherwise.

“This is the biggest production we’ve ever done due to our casting. When we do our Christmas shows, there tends to be three actors, and they play lots of roles - but what we’ve decided to do this year is to give each part to a different actor. We’re going to have over 20 actors in this show, making it by far our biggest cast ever.

“Something we’re really proud of at Red Rose Chain is that we’ve continued to employ our freelancers as much as we can through this period, as so many have been without work for months on end. What this also means is we’re not only giving everybody a paid job this Christmas, but we’re also keeping that creativity flowing and those connections to the industry going.”

While thankful for the actors and freelancers who work hard to put these productions together, Joanna is especially grateful to the local community who have tuned in and donated to help keep Red Rose Chain going during such an unprecedented time.

“The only reason we can do this is because our audiences are donating. We’re totally independent and we survive through ticket sales, donations and some grant funding - but we’ve had to create the product in order to generate the income. We’ve been working really hard and pulling out as many products as we can, connecting with our audience and all of our participants. That’s the way to go, you’ve got to adapt.”

With West End actress Joanna Sawyer in the lead role as Alice, Joanna cannot wait to share this year’s exciting production with the Red Rose Chain audience – and predicts that streaming shows will be something we see more of the in the future, regardless of lockdown.

“We’ll definitely be pursuing the online stuff going forwards - we have found there are many people, particularly with disabilities, who aren’t able to go out, so we want to provide them with access to our work in new ways.”

Tickets for this year’s Alice in Wonderland performance are priced between £10 and £100, and will grant one device access throughout the entire viewing period.

Ticket holders will be emailed a streaming link 24 hours prior to the event’s premiere. Digital programmes are also available for £2.

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