Pros: Everything. This play is funny, clever and entertaining in equal measure. The venue, sets and cast are amazing.
Cons: It got a bit chilly being out in the garden by the end of the night. Take a coat and an umbrella.
As soon as my guest and I stepped through the gates of the stunning St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden we were immediately transported into a different world. The front garden of the church has been transformed into a fairground where you can play Victorian games such as apple bobbing and hook-a-duck whilst waiting for the show to start.
I opted to see this play because I loved reading the surreal adventures of Alice in Wonderland when I was growing-up. Therefore, it was a complete surprise to discover that this isn’t your average piece of theatre where you sit passively in a chair and watch. Instead this is an immersive experience which I’d describe as a cross between a play and a murder mystery role play.
Alice Through the Looking Glass follows the title character playing a game of chess in order to find her older self, Mrs Grey, and save her. The play tracks Alice’s adventures as she progresses from one square to the next, meeting a range of characters including the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter and the Jabberwocky.
Director Jamie Jackson has made clever use of the entire venue to create the both the dark and foreboding real world and the riot of colour that is Wonderland, mirroring the freedom and innocence of childhood and the shackles of adulthood. The inside of the church is the bedroom of the decaying Mrs Grey, a woman who is lost inside her own mind. It’s the perfect setting: gothic and claustrophobic with overtones of Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations. When Alice bursts through the looking glass to rescue Mrs Grey, the audience is taken into the church’s back garden which had been transformed into a fantastical Wonderland full of umbrellas, candelabras and twinkling fairy lights. At the end of the play the audience is guided back into the church, pitch black by now, where Alice has to fight the Jabberwocky, a truly terrifying monster thanks to the great use of lighting and fabric.
Every single character is played with exquisite attention to detail. The play is punctuated with high quality musical numbers. The costumes are simple but wonderful. I really couldn’t fault a thing. Even the bold choice of moving 150 people, many of whom children, across the venue multiple times paid off: the actors quickly and skillfully guided us to wherever we needed to go while staying in character.
The play is very long considering that it’s aimed at children: two and a half hours including the interval. Nevertheless, I didn’t see any of the children getting fidgety or bored. Equally, plays aimed at children can be boring for adults. Alice Through the Looking Glass however is a much darker book than Alice in Wonderland, which came across in the script that considers quite adult concepts like age, death and religion. At the same time there were also plenty of cheeky jokes for us to enjoy, so we were captivated throughout.
I would thoroughly recommend this play to anyone. Take your own kids, or borrow someone else’s and go and see it this summer.
Author: Lewis Carroll
Adaption: Daniel Winder and Candida Calidcot
Director: Jamie Jackson
Producer: Tara Finney
Booking Link: www.iristheatre.com/Contents/IrisShows/NewStylePage/alice-looking/alice-looking.html#tickets
Booking Until: 30 August 2014