Alice is sent to rehab for a new version of Wonderland on stage

DARK From left, Ellie Simmonds, Gabrielle Smith, and George Bailey
DARK From left, Ellie Simmonds, Gabrielle Smith, and George Bailey
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YOUNG performers amazed everybody – including themselves – when they brought a unique take on Alice in Wonderland to life.

Old Portsmouth’s Square Tower was the unusual venue for an atmospheric play by a talented group of youngsters working with the Portsmouth Football Club-backed Respect Programme.

Lewis Carroll’s classic acted as inspiration for an original story called Weird as Wonderland, which dealt with mental illness, paranoia and isolation.

A group of 13 teenagers aged between 13 and 17 – some of who had never acted before – performed the play three times for city leaders, teachers and their parents.

The play was directed by Kiri Grant and written with the help of its young cast members. It featured five different characters playing five versions of the original’s Alice as they battle their demons inside a drug rehab clinic.

George Bailey, 16, of Wisborough Road, Southsea, started out working backstage before being encouraged to step into the limelight.

He said: ‘It was the first time I have ever done any kind of performing in front of people. I got good feedback, but I was nervous before.

‘I was surprised and happy with how well it went.’

Gabrielle Smith, 14, Minstead Road, Eastney, said she had loved acting in Consequences – Respect’s previous production last year – and said their latest play was even better. I loved it,’ she said. ‘We all wanted to do more than three shows.

‘And we all got along and helped each other, which made things easier. It’s really helped me feel more confident.’

Project worker Richie Maclaren said: ‘I’m 41 and have lived in Portsmouth all my life but I have never been inside the Square Tower before. It gave them a unique experience. Some of them had never done any drama at all.

‘If fact watching them made me feel quite emotional. It made me think about how far they’ve come.

‘The show itself was fantastic and the feedback we’ve received from parents has been wonderful. Some of them never thought their children would do anything like this.’

The Respect programme is based in the Eastney Community Centre and is supported by the Pompey Sports and Education Foundation.