Archive for August, 2013

In the opening sequence of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, young Alice is trying to work out who she is – one of her methods of ‘finding’ herself is to try and recite poems previously familiar to herself.   “I’ll try and say ‘How doth the little__’ she says and recites:

                                  “How doth the little crocodile

                                    Improve his shining tail,

                                    And pour the waters of the Nile

                                    On every golden scale…..”

She is sure these are not the right words to the poem and I am sure this review is starting with a very tenuous link between the story of Alice and a blog site that is mainly, but not exclusively, about Egypt. However, that’s my prerogative!!!

On very few occasions do I see plays which prompt me to write a review – either for the good or for the bad.  In the past year there have been two such plays which excited my attention – luckily both fall into the good section!  For the first play, please see my comments ** at the end of this review.

For one month (between July and August 2013) the Iris Theatre staged their version of Alice in Wonderland.  It was an open air production based in the beautiful church known as the actor’s church – St. Paul’s (fig. 1), in the heart of Covent Garden. 


fig. 1: outside St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

On the evening I attended the weather was great  and this made all the difference, however, considering what I witnessed that evening I believe even extremely bad weather could not have sullied the event.  It was possibly one of the best stage versions of Alice that I have ever seen and, believe me, I have seen most of them  –  I am something of an ‘Alice fanatic’.

On a slightly, and to my mind destructively, sour note, the Time Out reviewer states:

‘Unfortunately, the company has allowed its commendable sense of ambition to run away with it for this overegged take on Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. It boasts a multitude of great ideas, but too few of them are well executed’ (Friday 2nd August 2013).

I was there at the same performance – were we seeing the same production?  I believe I saw this ‘reviewer’ when we all sat down at the tea party – he (if indeed it was the same man) hardly looked at the action during the tea party!  Concerning his opinion, I beg to differ – most strongly.  The production did boast a multitude of ideas – magnificent ideas – and the majority of them were well performed and enthusiastically received by the audience. Perhaps the Time Out reviewer should go by audience opinion and not by his own, somewhat small view of the world.  Perhaps the Time Out reviewer should go on an adventure to Wonderland! Compare his review with the Huffington Post comments shown at the end of this piece.

Let’s get back to the really important issue – the play and its players:

The cast was small – a female  (of course) playing Alice and about half a dozen male actors who took on several parts (both male and female) throughout the evening.  From the very minute the audience arrived they were ‘involved’ in the production by being asked to choose and wear hats from quite an outrageous selection (fig. 2)  –  whilst some audience members refused to do this, many did comply, however, the reason for being asked to wear a hat became apparent only at the end of the evening, see * below.  My given hat was a large affair sprouting flowers and ephemera in all directions. 


fig. 2: an example of one of the hats, as worn by the usherette

The premise of the staging was that the audience moved with an enthusiastically-acted Alice, around the gardens of the church, as she progressed through her adventures. 

Let me take you on a photographic journey following Alice – hold onto your hats and we are off!


fig. 3: the event started in a circus atmosphere, a barker led the crowd through various entertainments before Alice arrived


















fig. 4: an audience member is ‘persuaded’ to participate in strong man activities in the opening circus sequence







fig. 5: during the opening circus, a ‘bear’ is led round on a chain, unsurprisingly the bear wanted to get close to audience members!!!


fig. 6: Alice meets and sings with a variety of creatures before they embark on the Caucaus race


fig. 7: Alice meets and receives advice from the Caterpillar whose song is accompanied by ‘flower’ backing singers


fig. 8: the first appearance of the Cheshire Cat


fig. 9: Alice meets the Duchess and a lively time is had by all – not least the baby who turns into a pig and runs away!


fig. 10: the Hatter’s Tea Party – the audience were part of the party holding onto the cake-laden cloth (a genius touch) as Alice, the Hatter, the March Hare and the
Dormouse intermingled with the ‘guests’


fig. 11: Alice is re-united with the White rabbit before doom (in the shape of the Queen of Hearts) arrives!


fig. 12: the cards are busy painting the white roses red as ‘madam’ approaches


fig. 13: Madam – the Queen of Hearts – arrives (bearded and flirting outrageously with a targeted audience member of her choice) and organised chaos ensues. This actor’s facial expressions and vocal prowess are a joy to behold – well done you!


fig. 14: Alice listens to the stories of the Griffin and the Mock Turtle – emotional, sad yet amusing – beautifully played by all!

After a rousing, fantastic finale, whereby the audience trooped into St. Paul’s Church to witness the court appearance * of the Knave of Hearts who stole the Queen’s tarts and to listen to the evidence and verdict, we watched Alice return to her real world – leaving the audience wanting more and more of her adventures!

And more of the Iris Theatre Company – thanks for a great time!

*          *          *

 * as the show has now finished it is okay to reveal the secret of the hats – anybody wearing one of the ‘comedy’ hats was invited to be a member of the jury on stage!

** my other great play of the past year is The Judas Kiss starring Rupert Everett and also Freddie Fox, who gave an intelligent yet sensual supporting performance.  To my mind Rupert Everett was born to play Oscar Wilde, the sensitivity and depth of his performance will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time. Thank you!


fig. 15: outside St. Paul’s Church at the end of a wonderful adventure performed by a truly special and talented theatre group.  As this review by the Huffington Posts puts it ……… Image



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