REVIEW: Finding Alice (The Lowry, Salford Quays)

Manchester ADP
Manchester ADP
Reviewer: Elise Gallagher
Upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Creative collective Manchester ADP premieres a new piece of writing with Finding Alice, directed by Charlie Mortimer.

The hour and a half piece explores the lives of Camille, Ida, and Audrey – three cellmates under interrogation by prison officer Himmel. They are accused of being a part of the spy network known as the “Alice Network” run by the infamous Alice Dubois. But the question everyone wants to know is, who’s Alice?

The play opens with Camille, a fiery proud woman played by Nuala Maguire being interrogated by her German prison officer Himmel (Oates). Her naïve fifteen-year-old cell mate Ida is played by Chloe Proctor who delivers a standout performance. Camille’s character fluctuates between unrivalled fury, ignorance, and then maternal instinct over Ida, whom she promised she’d look after.

It seems Camille had made quite a name for herself before she was imprisoned, as revealed by the arrival of Audrey played by Diana Atkins, a part-English part-Belgian officer of higher rank than Camille within the Network.

Maguire plays Camille with a thick Belgian accent which I feel was prone to variation throughout the performance. Audrey speaks with an eccentric RP, one only the Queen could rival, whilst Oates plays the German Officer Himmel with a thoroughly Northern English accent. I found this inconsistency could cause confusion with the audience.

In a production like this, I feel it would either make sense to either allow each actor to perform in their native accent or encourage all actors to adopt their character’s accents, variation between the two distracts from the narrative at hand and remains unexplained.

Furthermore, I feel Oates’ delivery failed to meet the mark. I often found his delivery didn’t match that of a supposedly threatening German soldier.

However, for an opening night performance, I sincerely hope the play’s actors gather proper grounding in their roles as the tour develops.

It’s important to note that this performance contains scenes of implied sexual violence.

Most fascinating of all, the story’s foundations are completely true. The play is dedicated to Louise de Bettignies, also known as ‘The Queen of Spies’, as well as to Edith Cavell and to all the women who were apart of the Alice Network but whose names do not grace history.

Alice Dubois lived and fought occupying forces in Europe during the First World War, during which women across Europe challenged the expectations their society shackled to them. Finding Alice was selected from over two hundred script submissions sent into Manchester ADP – I thoroughly look forward to seeing more original stories and the voices they share on the stage.

Finding Alice is an intricate tale of imprisonment, desperation, resilience, and most importantly, survival. However, for such a fantastic story I feel it was let down by its performance.

-Elise Gallagher

Finding Alice is being performed at Oldham Coliseum on 10th and 15th February 2018.