Iris Theatre plunge us down something of a rabbit hole to tell their promenade version of Lewis Carroll’s 1871 irreverent nonsense novel ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There’. Though the piece is infused with a marvellous sense of adventure, it’s hard to keep track of the winding warren of the plot.
Carroll’s sequel to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ follows a 7-year-old Alice through a mirror where she finds queens, hatters, talking flowers and humpty dumpty all in a world laid out like a chess board. Daniel Winder’s adaptation contains most of the recognisable characters but adds a somewhat confusing framing narrative, continued from the company’s 2013 ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Here Alice must save her older self, who is lost in this looking-glass world, and battle with the Jabberwocky to get them both back home. It adds unnecessary layers to a story that’s easily confused – quite why Alice needs to find her future self or why she is so lost is never really made clear.
But plot issues aside, there’s no faulting the company’s dedication or imagination, which almost matches Carroll’s own in his often astoundingly inventive novels. The Actors’ Church’s beautiful gardens offer a perfect maze of corners for an audience to enjoy the encounters Alice has with a myriad of wacky characters. Jamie Jackson’s production smoothly moves from the courtyard through into the church and then around the garden. The seven-strong cast bring lots of fun to the evening and undertake some astonishingly quick and hilariously makeshift costume changes.
Jos Vantyler as Lion is wonderfully weird as he gurns, struts and shakes his mane during his fight with Unicorn. Anne-Marie Piazza plays an excellent disgruntled mosquito, while Dafydd Gwyn Howells and Nick Howard-Brown’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum are a hilariously naughty double act.
A few songs are unnecessary, and the final scene gets too gothic, but as a night of open-air adventure, you could certainly do a whole lot worse.