BWW Reviews: ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, August 4 2014
Mrs Grey, in a near catatonic state, lies in a huge bed attended by doctors and priests who bicker over her connection to this world. Suddenly, a girl calls her through the broken bedroom mirror and Alice, both young and old, are reunited in the strange Wonderland at the bottom of the rabbit hole. To return home, indeed, to return to consciousness, Alice must take on the role of the White Queen's pawn and advance across all eight ranks of the chess board to become a Queen herself.
Iris Theatre's Alice Through The Looking Glass (continuing at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden until 30 August) builds on their success last year with Alice in Wonderland. All the old favourites from the much loved book are there (even the recently discovered Wasp in a Wig) - or rather they are amongst us in this (largely) outdoor promenade production.
At its best, the show is enormous fun - with elements of stand-up, pantomime and dance with some fine original songs from Candida Caldicot. Standout scenes (the structure is inevitably episodic) include Dafydd Gwyn Howells and Nick Howard Brown channelling the spirits of Kenneth Williams and Charlie Hawtrey as they battle over a rattle and a lion who must have watched more of old-time vaudevillian Max Wall than one would expect - a magnificent turn from Jos Vantyler that really was a case of LOLs from the Lion.
All the cast are excellent. And they have to be, as we're with them for over two and a half hours (though a particularly well attended Press Night may have slowed the scene transitions a little). Writer Daniel Winder has been loyal, perhaps too loyal, to the source material as the wordplay and the whimsy (I'm afraid there's quite a bit of whimsy) can slow Alice's quest as darkness falls. (Very young children may find it a long evening and may be frightened by the spectacular denouement with the long trailed Voldemort-like Jabberwock, but any child with a PG12 film on their CV should be okay).
Like many an outdoor promenade, the play is enjoyed rather more in retrospect than it is at the time (something Lewis Carroll would rather have liked). Wear sensible shoes, take along a warm woolly and whisper a prayer during the church's opening scene that the rain holds off, and you'll be rewarded with much to enjoy and with the odd (sometimes very odd) turn of phrase that pops back into your mind. And you won't forget the funniest lion you'll ever see!