After its massive success with Julius Caesar this summer which harvested rave reviews from critics all over London, I didn’t think Iris Theatre could possibly have any more sparkles in it. It is well known that after a great success – which seems to have labelled the company for several years now – the box of magic ideas seems to thin out.
But it seems like the creative heads behind this promenade theatre-wonder get a non-stop creative source from somewhere beyond human capability. Alice in Wonderland is packed with craziness and wonderful ideas that spring from one another into a creative firework of talent, madness and pure joy. I don’t know how they keep topping themselves and their history of brilliance, but somehow they do.
Alice in Wonderland is one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time and has been used by many creative companies before. There was Disney, Tim Burton and recently the Royal Opera House’s staging of the ballet, and it is a story companies and artists will keep re-inventing because of its magical universe and refreshing madness.
It is a tale of a young girl’s entry into adulthood, creating an identity and figuring out who you are and what you stand for. Going down the rabbit hole Alice suddenly finds herself in a strange world, primarily dominated by animals and mad men, and she embarks on a journey through Wonderland.
This story takes an awful lot of energy to execute. Most of the characters are animals and therefore need the proper physicality to seem real and not like caricatures, and Alice needs to be sweet and childlike but not annoying and whining. Again somehow, someway the creative masterminds of Iris Theatre have managed to create the perfect cast of some of London’s finest upcoming actors. The ensemble is superb and embody the animal characters with remarkable physicality and voice that makes them all different from each other, even when the cast is doubling like crazy. It shows a great eye for detail but they still managed to keep the sense of play and sprint around like a train of non-stop energy, interacting with their audience all the way.
The cast is all brilliant, but it is worth mentioning the beautiful and charismatic Laura Wickham as only woman in the company. Her Alice is charming and very likeable, and Wickham has got a singing voice that could easily throw some West End stars off their pedestal. David Baynes is as hilarious as always, versatile in both characterisations and accents and always bursting with energy and creativity. Together with the fantastic Matt Wilman (whose self-indulgent, crooning Caterpillar tops his Disney rival) they make their audience cry with laughter as the Queen and King of Hearts.
There are so many genius details in this show that it’s hard to write a review without going on for 50 pages – it is one of those productions when you tell your friends about it (and you will) you go “and then there was this… and this… oh, and then they did that!”
The highlight of the show was without a doubt the Mad Tea Party. As ever with any Alice in Wonderland production this is what the audience is waiting for. How will they do it? Who’s the Mad Hatter? Iris Theatre has managed to use all its creative fuel and invent a new tea party, engaging its audience to the fullest (no spoiler alerts here), and Nick Howard-Brown’s Mad Hatter is refreshing, at times rude and still as loveable as the character in the book.
Artistic Director Daniel Winder has once again conquered Covent Garden, making Iris Theatre one of the most important platforms in London for new talent. Director Andrew Lynford has with his fantastic team of bright creatives exposed us to a fantastical, absolutely mad and chaotic world of magic in the beautiful grounds of St. Paul’s Church.
Alice in Wonderland is that mad and enchanting party you always wished you’d been invited to. Don’t miss out on the invitation.
Alice in Wonderland is playing at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden until 31 August. For more information and tickets, see the Iris Theatre website.