After thoroughly enjoying Iris Theatre’s promenade production of Alice in Wonderland last year, I was thrilled to discover that the company were producing the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, also to be performed at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. I eagerly snapped up a ticket, and luckily the weather was fine on the day I attended – the production takes place largely out of doors and rain does tend to put a damper on such things.
Adapted by Daniel Winder, the production actually began inside the church, in a Gothic Victorian setting of aged Mrs Grey’s bedchamber. It’s dark, for a children’s story, particularly when we discover that Mrs Grey is in fact Alice herself. Distressed and befuddled, she mutters about the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter, confusing her family – but then her younger self appears to draw her back into Wonderland. We follow her through the mirror into the garden – and the play proper begins.
As last year, incredible attention to detail has been paid to every aspect of the set and costumes. From the chessboard where we first meet the Red Queen and the White Knight, to the garden of flowers and the fight between the Lion and the Unicorn, the effect is magical. In director Jamie Jackson’s production, events move on at a good pace, not leaving anyone time to get bored. The entirety of the space is utilised, and we feel as though we are all on an adventure with Alice.
Laura Wickham returns as Alice and does a great job of carrying the show, appealing to the audience without being sentimental. Incredibly, the remaining cast of characters is played by just five actors, who all display great talent and skill in portraying completely different inhabitants of the realm of Wonderland. My favourite was perhaps Anne-Marie Piazza, who had a simply terrifying look in her eyes as the Red Queen, evoked our sympathy as an aged Wasp, and was brilliantly haughty as the Unicorn. In addition she has a stunning singing voice, which was put to good use in the very first scene inside the church. The other performers were also excellent. Valerie Cutko was superb as the elderly Alice as well as the eccentric White Queen, while Jos Vantyler was a fabulously haughty Lion and a rather Byronic Rose. Nick Howard-Brown was a warm, sympathetic White Knight, while Dafydd Gwyn Howell’s Tweedledee was hilarious.
The play includes songs by Candida Caldicot and while I feel these were aimed more at the younger members of the audience, I did think that they worked well to add to the atmosphere of the show.
The end of the show saw us back inside the church for a moving and bittersweet finale. It says a lot for my emotional investment in the show that I was near tears by the end. If anything, this production is even better than last year’s – an amazing experience for adults and children alike.