Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Who are we? Are we merely the kids we used to be, with grown up concerns and hang ups weighing down our hopes and dreams? Or is adulthood a process of forgetting everything we knew from the start, shrugging off the simplicity we used to know was children, not remembering that sometimes the easiest route from A to Z is simply to work backwards?
In essence, that’s the message between this look at a (very) loose version of Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. Less an adaptation of those two books, and more an introspection of the man behind it all, Charles Dodgson, better known to the world as Lewis Carroll. The divide between these two personalities is explored to its fullest limit here, as the play uses fits and comas to send the writer between this world and his imaginary one.
It starts off with a terrific amount shouting and running around. This seems to be annoying – we see enough of that at the fringe, and it feels a little too much like boys at play – but it earns itself later, when we discover a little about Dodgson’s state of health.
Dodgson is a painfully shy man who shuns most social interaction, but delights in the possibility of two people he cares about intensely finding solace in one another. It’s about his exploration of a make believe world – so it’s not so much following Alice into Wonderland, but more about Dodgson in Outland.
We’re told that from Outland, you can get anywhere (although it’s so very hard to get to).As to what Outland actually is, that might rather depend on the audience member and whatever is important in their life – it could be the memory of a long ago hazy summer, the love of good friends, or indeed, the kiss of a beautiful, yearned for love.
There’s a great deal of word play and cleverness as you might expect from a production that dances in and out of the world of Wonderland (or Outland) and when it’s not delighting in the fun of childlike make believe, it’s a surprisingly adult and sombre meditation on the importance of childhood. It also discusses death, not just the death of life, but the death of hope, promise, and naivety. In the most meditative moments, it’s fascinating to see the faces of the other audience members, all adults- and all open mouthed and watchful, like children at story time.
It’s a delicious, very involving piece, using iconic moments – such as the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the famous dreamy poem whose lines spell out Alice Liddel’s name – to great, moving effect. Don’t be late – it’s one of the most important dates of the Fringe.