Last summer Iris Theatre conquered Covent Garden as their smash hit production of Alice in Wonderland enchanted and entertained audiences in the hidden grounds of St. Paul’s Church. Going through the rabbit hole and entering a world of wonder and madness, the audience was led through the grounds in a hilarious and imaginative promenade production using audience interaction, music and puppetry to captivate children as well as adults. This Easter the hit production returns, this time in an indoor version at the Cockpit Theatre.
Alice in Wonderland is a new music theatre production adapted for the stage by Iris Theatre’s artistic director Daniel Winder, in the famous story of a girl who has lost her identity and has to travel through a dream world to try to uncover her name and self. Wonderland is full of madmen and animated animals, all adding to the fun and mystery of a world of dreams without limitations. Returning for Easter, Alice in Wonderland is the perfect opportunity to take children to the theatre, follow the White Rabbit and indulge in some Easter magic.
Returning from a winter rest, Iris Theatre has had to re-work the play and adapt it for an indoor space. Usually ruling the outdoor space with their interactive productions, Iris Theatre now gets to grips with a variety of new options, puppetry and lighting. Laura Wickham is sweet and charming as the adventurous Alice, and with her beautiful voice and wit she impresses as the only woman in the company. Simon Kent and Nick Howard-Brown engage with the audience and have great comic timing, representing the original cast along with Wickham, while Adam Dougal, Leo Elso, Julian Hoult and Stuart Turner join the company with great energy and commitment. They all shift in and out of character skilfully, and as a company captivate the audience with a charm that few manage. Composer Candida Caldicot’s score is exciting and catchy, and set designer Fraz Roughton has once again let the creative fluids flow, designing an inventive set that morphs from one thing into another.
Iris Theatre is known for its positive spirit and its incredibly humorous and imaginative shows that inspire, excite and move their audiences. In the open air they create sublime theatre magic, bringing performance back to a rural sense of play. Their summer hit Alice in Wonderland was exactly that, with its promenade beauty, moving the audience around the grounds of St. Paul’s Church and involving them in the performance. Yet at the Cockpit Theatre the company feels more restrained – like a wonderful beast put in a cage, unable to unfold its true self and show off its skills. The show loses some of its fun and its uniqueness as it’s forced to fit into a smaller space, unable to move around grounds in natural light and sound. It’s still a great play, and something children will love at Easter time – but it should be set free in the summer into the open air where it belongs, where it breathes naturally and shines.
Alice in Wonderland is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 20 April. For more information and tickets, see the Cockpit Theatre website.