Monday, 5 August 2013

Review: Alice in Wonderland at St Paul’s Church



Alice in Wonderland
St Paul’s Church
Reviewed on Friday 2nd August 2013


As you enter the rabbit hole, which is a ditch that enfolds around the churchyard of St Paul's and through which you must walk to get from the entrance to the first playing space, you begin to glean an impression of the wonderfully magic and immersive night of theatre ahead.

Daniel Winder's new stage adaptation of the Lewis Carroll children's novel constructs meaning from the eclectic array of eccentric characters through a personal journey by the protagonist to re-find her lost self. As she meanders her way through Wonderland, Alice is called Nobody, Idle, Dull by successive characters before being helped by the Mad Hatter to recall her true identity and realise that she is still all the things she was before she fell down into the despair of the rabbit hole. By the end of the piece, Alice has found herself and is encouraged to continue her adventure through the looking glass.

Laura Wickham tackles the title character with honesty and endearing warmth. She plays Alice as neither a naive nor a precocious child, rather she allows her sweet singing voice and endearing simplicity to lead the audience through the maze of absurdities. The remaining cast members, all of whom are male, deliver as an excellent ensemble each taking on multiple characters. David Baynes shines as the unpredictable March Hare and Michael Lynson has excellent physicality and focus in all the characters he plays.

The well-constructed script, which is witty and mostly contemporary in idiom keeping Carroll's playful use of language with a few modernities thrown in, is aided by Candida Caldicot's varied score. From English folk to quasi-musical theatre, Caldicot finds a style that is appropriate to each unexpected situation in which Alice finds herself, culminating in a moving final sequence, which is only mildly marred by the unnecessary inclusion of highlighting two crosses at the back of the church. Andrew Lynford is mature enough in his direction to convey with taste the magic found in Wonderland, including designing effective transitions for all of Alice's size changes. Just as in Julius Caesar, Iris' previous production at St Paul’s, the churchyard is used so effectively as different playing areas and the entire design, from costumes to set, is playful and inventive.

This is a ingenious piece of theatre, suitable for small children and grown-up children alike. It is fun, funny, original, abstract, absurd, involves the audience to the right degree, and gives you something to take home and think about.

Reviewed by Ted McMillan

Alice in Wonderland runs at St Paul's Church until Saturday 31st August 2013.
Please visit www.iristheatre.com for further information and tickets.

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