Iris Theatre Company has become a welcome part of the London summer, every year colonising the small but beautiful grounds of the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden with boldly-imagined takes on classic plays, accomplished with great invention on a shoestring budget.
Unfortunately, the company has allowed its commendable sense of ambition to run away with it for this overegged take on Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. It boasts a multitude of great ideas, but too few of them are well executed.
It is, for instance, a lovely notion to start things off by having the audience journey through the same ‘rabbit hole’ as Lewis’s eponymous heroine; but in practise what this actually involves is wandering through the uncovered ditch around the church while a bit of music plays feebly out of a speaker; the Victorian circus performers that entertain us at the start feel like a peculiar superfluity, never returned to; and despite many cool props and sweetly ramshackle songs, Carroll’s outlandish plot is confusingly articulated in Daniel Windsor’s busy adaptation, particularly in the first half.
There are lots of bright spots – Laura Wickham’s gutsy Alice, a charmingly Bagpuss-like Cheshire Cat, a much more lucid second half – and in fact I saw the final preview, so would expect things to tighten up for opening night. Nonetheless, it feels inherently flawed, trying to throw in a heap of extra ideas without first getting a grasp on Carroll’s supremely mad story.
By Andrzej Lukowski