There are some pieces of art that are so classic and so timeless, so well known that they are engrained in the collective consciousness, an important part of anyone’s cultural history, but that also deal with such universal themes in such a fluid manner that they not only allow reinterpretation and adaptation, but fling themselves at it, open to be altered, confident in the knowledge that their essence will remain the same. Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s dizzying and frenetic tale is one such piece of art.
St Peter’s Church in Covent Garden, also called the Actor’s Church is the location for tonight’s frenetic performance, where director Andrew Lynford and his cast of the church’s house company Iris Theatre delivered a dizzying reinterpretation. At times things were a little school production in style, and at the start it was difficult to separate the entertainment happening outside in the piazza with that inside the church gardens. However, limited means often means extra creativity and festivity, and so entertainment levels were high.
To give too much away would be to undermine what the production thrives on, it’s surprise and frivolity, and edge of unexpectedness and spontaneity. Besides, you already know the story. The whole church was made use of, with the audience encourage to follow the cast down the rabbit hole, through the maze, to the tea party and beyond. The novel, given its positioning in modern literature as a children’s one (have you ever given children anything else quite so trippy?) is a deep one, exploring identity and the growth from childhood to adult life, and lines such as ‘I am not nobody,’ ‘I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then’ and ‘Everything’s got moral. If only you can find it’ were picked out and delivered so as to be poignant, resonant, and entertaining, accessible and enjoyable, but also thought provoking.
All the cast were engaging as they sang and slapped their thighs, and encouraged, or sometimes forced the audience to do the same as they were lured through the surreal sets, but it was David Baynes as the angsty Scottish Mad Marsh Hare and Soho style Queen of Hearts who really shone, and Michael Lynson’s first professional performance, as the Mouse and Doremouse suggests a bright and vibrant career. As the heroine Laura Wickham held the show together with her sparking demeanour.
The Iris Theatre Company are known for their variety and vitality, dabbling in everything from Shakespearean theatre to circus style acrobatics, and this season present Alice In Wonderland, Julius Caesar and The Hunting of the Snark. Don’t go expecting National Theatre style acting quality. Do go to smile.