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1965 - ALICE - a play for television written by Dennis Potter

BBC production : Transmitted on 13th October 1965 at 9.05 p.m. on BBC 1 as part of the Wednesday Play series. Approximately 72 minutes in duration. Repeated on 6th July 1966 on BBC1

Written by Dennis Potter and directed by Gareth Davies.

he play is a fictionalised account of the relationship between Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell. It cleverly integrates events, conversations and chance remarks into the narrative which later become part of the "Alice" books but more than anything it's a touching story of unrequited love where frustration and innocence co-exist but never quite resolve their conflict. It was later remade as the film 'Dreamchild'.
    Yet another "Alice" actress with a "Doctor Who" connection, Deborah Watling went on to become Victoria, the companion of the Patrick Troughton incarnation of the time-travelling Doctor. Apparently the producers saw her pictured as Alice Liddell on the cover of the Radio Times and cast her on the spot.
CAST
George Baker
Deborah Watling
Rosalie Crutchley
David Langton
Tessa Wyatt
Maria Coyne
LIST
Rev Charles Dodgson
Alice Liddell
Mrs. Liddell
Dean Liddell
Lorina Liddell
Edith Liddell

Alice was played by
DEBORAH WATLING


t's interesting to compare the play with the later film "Dreamchild" which was based upon it. Both feature the same story-within-a-story but the film adds yet another layer with the inclusion of the sequences of the grown-up Alice, troubled by visions of her younger past and still unable to make sense of her relationship with Charles Dodgson. Both have typical Dennis Potter time-flips, where the present connects almost seamlessly to the past, and where fact merges with fiction as Alice meets characters from Wonderland in situations which have metorphorical connections to real life.
    The film deals ostensibly (and inaccurately) with her visit to New York as part of the Lewis Carroll centenary celebrations, but the subtext of the Carroll-Liddell relationship is really at the core of it. While the added Alice Hargreaves sequences (and, I suppose, the Henson special effects) created a more commercial film, they do tend to distract from that core and effectively provide the solution on a plate. The play is far more satisfactory and allows the viewer the luxury of working it out for themselves.
Deborah Watling as Alice
    George Baker lnvokes a very believable Dodgson and looks scarily like the real thing. I particularly liked his mood swings, where the character would stammer his way through painful shyness, suddenly explode into frustrated beligerence and then just as suddenly become a teacher again, taking huge delight in setting a mathmatical problem for a student. Rosalie Cruthley is likewise excellent as Mrs Liddell as she portrays growing concern over the attention which Dodgson pays to Alice. Deborah Watling makes a charming Alice and there's one sequence where she backs away in fear from the Turtle and the Gryphon as they advance on her, which is almost a precursor to all the monster confrontations she was later to experience as Doctor Who's companion, Victoria.
    The play is well worth viewing if you ever get the oportunity. It's pretty much consigned to the vaults today but could be shown at Dennis Potter appreciation events or, who knows, might even get a DVD release as did the Jonathan Miller play. We live in hope, although not exactly holding our breath.
An enormous vote of thanks goes to Andrew Pixley for making this article possible.
More information: Gilbert, W.S. (1995) Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Works of Dennis Potter, Hodder & Stoughton (ISBN 0 - 340 - 64047 - 2)