Barbican Theatre, London EC2
Opened 13 November, 2001

** Imagination does not quite triumph in a patchy adaptation

Lewis Carroll's two Alice books have very different structures, and Adrian Mitchell's adaptation fails to solve the problems.

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland is an anarchic joy, whereas Through The Looking Glass follows the strict metaphor of a chess game. Compressing their action into an hour each of the same show means that, however the adaptation and staging may try to blur the distinction (for instance, by reprising some characters), it remains stark. Mitchell is also at something of a loss when moving Alice from one situation to another: despite imaginative visuals (aided by illusionist Paul Kieve), he is forced to rely on Alice simply telling us what is happening to her, and I am afraid that Katherine Heath's sing-song little-girl voice begins to grate. The visual treats are not matched in other areas. Stephen Warbeck's score is varied and imaginative, but why especially in a family show do composers insist on cutting across the metre of the verse they supposed to be setting?

My slight sense of the cast simply going through the motions may have been due to seeing an 11 a.m. matinée performance, but seemed matched by the mood of the schoolchildren who made up 95% of that audience: few outright laughs, never more than polite applause, and several restive patches.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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