Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There)

Mon 15th – Sat 27th August 2011


Julia Chapman

at 11:42 on 26th Aug 2011



Reinterpreting fairy tales and childhood stories seems to be a common theme at the Fringe this year, with other such productions often attempting to blur the line between children’s theatre and theatre for adults, rarely accomplishing this successfully. Traitor Theatre Company’s Through the Looking Glass (and What Alice Found There) handled this twofold audience perfectly in a production that was short and very sweet.

Through the Looking Glass was simple and understated, with no elaborate set or gimmick in sight. The simplicity allowed the writing, which was excellent, to shine through and take precedence. Based on the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass revolved around Alice’s quest to become a queen by moving across a chess board-shaped world square by square. While this plot is somewhat contrived (Lewis Carroll’s shortcoming, not that of this production), the stage interpretation was not overwritten and retained focus on the important elements of the story.

Lois Edmett was a strong Alice, but the real stars were Rhiannon Drake and Freya Hocking as the red and white queens respectively, with Drake delivering a particularly impressive rendition of the infamous beheader with her lovely booming voice. There were no weak links in the cast as most of the acting was very good.

The brief instances of physical theatre when Alice finds herself first swimming and then riding a horse were adroitly executed. Usually when actors are used as ostensibly invisible forces onstage the effect is diminished, but when Alice was lifted into the air, the impression of weightlessness was achieved in a balletic manner.

Another impressive aspect was the climactic scene in which the red and white queens confront Alice simultaneously. When the two prattled nonsense in all directions at blistering pace, Drake and Hocking’s articulation was absolutely perfect and every word was clear and succinct, achieving the effect of overwhelming Alice while still being perfectly audible.

What did detract from the production was the practice of having Alice Liddell, the ‘real Alice’ sitting on stage throughout the show. While the plot device of her narration was perfectly legitimate, her tired chess-playing was redundant, and her hair was poorly greyed. The white knight’s song randomly interrupted the plot of the story, and Michael Huband’s performance of the ballad was unenergetic, however his voice compensated somewhat.

The cast of Through the Looking Glass took its audience on an enjoyable journey across the chess board. carried by strong acting and whimsical happenings. Delightfully strange as Lewis Carroll always is, this looking glass is one worth venturing through.


Imogen O'Sullivan

at 17:57 on 26th Aug 2011



The sheer popularity of the Alice in Wonderland tales made this a tricky premise for any theatre company to get right. The opening introduction to this piece by the aged Alice Liddell sparked a vain hope that this was not simply going to be a retelling of the story that would struggle to match the imagination of the book, but an original re-envisioning exploring the factual background to Carroll’s relationship with the Liddell children and ‘the real Alice’. Unfortunately this is where this hope dies. Madeline Ratcliffe’s Liddell serves only as a figure for narration, the actress showcasing some nice touches of emotional nostalgia but drastically underused – Liddell’s story is never told.

Carroll’s supremely vivid and surreal imagination is what is lacking in this interpretation, the tree branches loaded with party rings are the closest we ever get to the visually fantastic world Alice is supposed to be stumbling through - even Tweedledum and Tweedledee are lacking the pots and pans that create physically comedic armour, making do with a plastic sword and shield. The use of blue fabric for the sea Alice tumbles into had the potential to be an imaginative directorial decision but simply needed more; more fabric, more energy, more excitement, more interest – the entire piece just needed more.

Rhiannon Drake’s Red Queen showed fantastic moments of comic promise but could have done with more volume and more of the squealing shrieks of indignation. This piece is a rare opportunity to overact and be melodramatic to your heart’s content and this character in particular should be incredibly fun to play and to watch but it somehow just misses the mark. The Tweedles dressed as schoolboys lack the jostling ‘rough and tumble’ energy they needed to match the comic power of their well-delivered lines and the White Queen could have done with a touch more of the childish peculiarity Freya Hocking’s brilliantly dreamy performance was peppered with. Lois Edmett’s Alice was a strong, if not original, interpretation as the eternal optimist. However, she was unfortunate in that she naturally imbued the role with an innate sense of modernity that appeared incongruous with the period costume.

Michael Huband’s White Knight was an almost ideal characterisation throughout, whose shabby looking cardboard and sellotape props managed to emphasise his slap-dash approach to life, although compromising the aesthetics of the piece. His sweet and naive nature was well developed through a slow and meandering way of speaking, though again his beautifully performed song could have done with more energy, more action and more quirky madness.

The overall impression was one of promise, though the cast lacked the confidence to throw themselves completely into the bizarre world they were attempting to create. Every character needed emphasising to a cartoonish degree to avoid the performances looking awkward and timid. Liddell ends the piece by asking if it was all a dream, the lack of the sublime and the ridiculous implies not – it simply wasn’t a ‘curious enough thing’.


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