Alice Through The Looking-Glass

Let's make this clear from the start, that this is not the sugary-coated vision of Alice popularised by Disney's 1951 classic, but the darker, more nightmarish view closer to Lewis Carroll's original 1871 novel.

Starting with Alice's discovery that she can travel through the mirror to the reversed-logic of the world beyond, the plot follows our heroine's journey across a chessboard in an attempt to convert from White Pawn to White Queen. Along the way she meets many of Carroll's eccentric characters, such as Tweedledee & Tweedledum and Humpty Dumpty who are positioned at squares on the board. Squeezing this tale into 50 minutes has inevitably meant cuts to the original text however, and there's a fair bit left out including the looking-glass poetry, Jabberwocky; The Walrus and the Carpenter; and the Lion and the Unicorn. Whilst that doesn't really impact on crossing the chessboard, the abrupt ending leaves off any explanation of the dream or the black & white kittens.

Costume design in this production is excellent, making the rather bleak set look a bit like something knocked up on Blue Peter. The acting is solid throughout, from the comic juxtaposition of Tom Powell & Jonah Priour's Tweedledee & Tweedledum, to Laura Stewart's focused performance of Alice. I would have possibly preferred a little more pace in Hazel Pearson & Olga Smith's direction, but admire their use of the space. Alex Drofiak's lighting design is a bit gloomy, but then this is a pretty dark story.

In summary, this is a fantasy which can scare small children; and indeed includes close-up pictures of bugs that set off at least one youngster in today's crowd. However, in a world of dumbing down, it's encouraging to see this theatre company presenting a more truthful representation of the story. This may have no happily-ever-after, but as one of the great literary works of the 19th century, it's an honest portrayal.

Reviews by Pete Shaw

Assembly George Square Studios

The House

★★★★★
theSpace on the Mile

Grace Notes

★★★
Greenwich Theatre

The Jungle Book

★★★
Greenwich Theatre

A Midsummer Night's Dream

★★★★
Multiple Venues

A Spoonful Of Sherman

★★★★★
Pleasance Theatre

Assassins

★★★★

The Blurb

Pleasance Dome, 6-28 Aug. 12:10 (50m)