Pros: Enthusiastic, energetic and camp performances from a group of talented actors.
Cons: A slightly odd script that strays too far from the children’s classic at times.
For the first time in its half a decade life, Iris Theatre has expanded its successful summer season with a second show. Venturing away from the safety of Shakespeare, the team have tackled the ever-popular Alice in Wonderland, a children’s book adored by young and old alike for its wit, charm and quirky characters.
Before the show had even begun we were led down the rabbit hole, a below-ground pathway running along three sides of the garden. This set the slightly spooky mood as quotes from the book were painted elegantly and backwards on the ground. Eerie music played through hidden speakers and neatly placed props and decorations were adorned at points along our path. Once we made it into ‘Wonderland’ we were entertained with a pre-set of sideshow attractions while we waited for Alice to fall down the rabbit-hole. This is rather a different experience from most theatre performances and as I personally enjoy ‘a little something extra’ from a show, this proved to be a very enjoyable beginning. It is certainly something you will remember the show by!
However, it’s not quite the book as I remember it, having just re-read it in the last 6 months. The book has been adapted for the stage by the Artistic Director of Iris Theatre, Daniel Winder. Obviously this is not the first time we’ve seen this story changed, evidenced by the Tim Burton film in 2010 and there isn’t any damage done to Carroll’s ineffable characters, intelligent word play and renowned lines (“We’re all mad here.”). I nevertheless really can’t see what the point was. What is so wrong with the original that it needed changing? Winder does manage to adapt the story to make it more suitable for the stage and the actor’s needs, yet doesn’t eclipse the need for “magic” surrounding the whole idea of Alice, something practically impossible to do flawlessly on stage.
It appears that this team have recognised and embraced the fact they weren’t going to be able to perform the necessary magic. With a little creative thought, they deal well with the size changes and stunts needed in the show. It will make adults and children laugh but perhaps for different reasons.
The play itself was thoroughly enjoyable, I walked through the 2 ½ hours with a big ‘Cheshire cat’ grin on my face thanks mainly to the fantastic, enthusiastic performers! Having just seen all but two of these actors strut around the same grounds violently in Julius Caesar, it is great to be able to see them all do a complete 180 degree turn and produce camp, child-friendly and hilarious characters. In particular I must mention David Baynes who played a funny Glaswegian Mad March Hare and an even more spectacular Queen of Hearts. Additionally, Matt Wilman is a charismatic Caterpillar and King of Hearts. As the King and Queen of Hearts, these two actors reminded me a great deal of Queenie and Prince George in Blackadder. I imagine Miranda Richardson and Hugh Laurie would be quite proud of them.
As we were ushered into the church for the last scene, which itself was unnecessarily long and drawn out, I saw a now familiar haze floating in the air. While the giant teddy bear was an impressive set piece, I thought the haze, seen often in Iris’ other shows, was totally unnecessary and detracted from the performances.
This play is by no means perfect but the team take this in their stride. The slightly rough around the edges show makes for an enjoyable evening. They have created a family friendly performance that is great for all ages, a summer pantomime if you like!
Author: Lewis Carroll
Adapted by: Daniel Winder
Producer: Iris Theatre
Booking Link: http://www.iristheatre.com/
Booking Until: 31st August 2013