Alice in Wonderland

Theatre, Drama
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 (© Phil Miller)
© Phil Miller
 (© Phil Miller)
© Phil Miller
 (© Phil Miller)
© Phil Miller
 (© Phil Miller)
© Phil Miller

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


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Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

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A lot of effort but no depth. It pains to see a talented, energetic cast of actors getting lost in their attempt to bring the magic of Lewis Caroll's story Alice in Wonderland alive. The performance would include such a mere richness of ideas that this , but unfortunately less and simpler would have been more and better. The churchyard provides an amazing venue and the finishing inside the church is a joy for ears and eyes. Also the idea of getting the audience to explore the rabbit hole upon arrival is great, but the journey through it, is definitely shallow. Apart from the first few sentences of the novel written on the floor, some sounds and some hula hoop tires nothing special stands out. Once out again, the audience is introduced to the bar and a superficial circus play does start. However this clownery is nowhere linked to story and never referred back to and it makes the audience doubt the real value of the play from its beginning. In general the story lacks depth. It is told in a confusing way including too many audience games and songs that disrupt the flow. However still the effort is huge, the songs are well performed, the idea of creating an actual journey for the audience is an experience but a lack of plot cannot create a good performance. The acting quality is high and particularly Simon Kent as a very believable rabbit stands out. Laura Wickham represents an ideal Alice and Nick Howard-Brown is interesting by just being on stage. However the general performance becomes deadly theatre, as prejudices and stereotypes rule the acting. Also more caution should be invested when being off stage, as the illusion is often destroyed by seeing the actors walking around in the courtyard in costume but not in character. Finally the second part became clearer and the last scene definitely was worth staying for. Being inside a mystical church to watch a play of magic brought the illusion alive. All in all cast and crew deserve well visited performances, as the hard work and creative should be rewarded. Children will be well served and ready to get lost in the confusing story but for the older ones a little bit less cliché and more focus on the plot would have done better.