After last summer’s critical success with a promenade adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Iris Theatre are returning to the gardens and grounds of St Paul’s Church, for a sixth year of family-friendly theatre, and its sequel, Alice through the Looking Glass.
The entire church had been transformed into Alice’s world and at times you struggled to remember this creative and wonderfully vibrant environment with all it’s glorious wonder was actually a place of worship.
An immersive audience experience, from the minute you walk in you are taken in to Alice’s world and feel like you are part of her journey. Meeting ‘Old Alice’ on her death bed we enter a dark and ethereal world where something is clearly very wrong. The audience is taken through the looking glass with Alice and in major contrast to the inside of the church is bright and colourful with a host of wacky and wonderful characters.
Each part of the outdoor space had been perfectly utilised to create an engaging and colourful world including a chess board and Rose Garden as well as many other inspired backdrops for our action to take place.
Brilliantly cast with actors that are both extremely talented and engaging, this production is very much an ensemble piece with each actor being given the opportunity to shine and entertain us. Playing multiple characters (at my count it was at 8 each) with ease and finesse this production really allows both the actors and the audiences minds to get lost in a world of pure imagination.
This is very much an audience participation show and made us really feel that we were part of their world involving children and adults alike (whoever was in the front row!) to be additional characters within the show and add to the crazy dynamic and humorous feel on stage.
Although the first half felt slightly long at no point were you clock watching and we genuinely feel that Alice is leading us on her adventure with no fourth wall.
Alice played by Laura Wickham is the epitome of a fairy tale heroine with a slight feisty edge and sweet and pure voice that only enhances her innocence.
The extremely talented ensemble really do make this production a wonder to behold. The very impressive musical talents of Leo Elso (Carpenter, Haigha and Musical Director) and Anne-Marie Piazza (Red Queen, Mosquito and Unicorn) really enhance this production, all the while creating characters and switching instruments to add to our experience.
The comedy timing and physicalisation of Jos Vantyler (Red King, Tiger Lily and Lion) was impeccable and had the audience in the palm of his paw! Vantyler clearly knows how to work an audience and enjoyed ad-libbing much to the amusement of his fellow cast members (and the whole audience).
Dafydd Gwyn Howells is hilarious as Humpty Dumpty and the White King and has a great sidekick in Nick Howard-Brown as they pair up for a comedy sketch as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
This production turns dark and quite scary (not just for children!) as Valerie Cutko becomes the Jabberwock back inside the church as the show comes to an end.
Brilliantly cast with great direction by Jamie Jackson and clever choreography by Isla Jackson Ritchie this is exciting fun for the whole family. There is something inventive and wonderfully effective about the use of props and staging that aids in creating this crazy world of wonder.
Stellar performances across the board and set in a unique environment. I actively encourage you to take a peak through the looking glass and indulge your children (and your inner child) in a fantastic and original piece of site specific theatre that is as unusual as the characters Alice meets on her journey.
A must see this summer!
Reviewed by Matthew Wren Andrew
Alice Through the Looking Glass is playing at the St Pauls Actors Church in Covent Garden until 30 August 2014. Click here for tickets.
Photo of Jos Vantyler as Tiger Lily taken by Alex Harvey- Brown