Alice Through the Looking Glass, review: Playful and extremely charming

Norwich Playhouse. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Playhouse. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Eve Stebbing enjoys a charming take on Alice Through the Looking Glass at Norwich Playhouse.

NNF18 - Alice through the Looking Glass. Photo: Courtesy of Norfolk and Norwich Festival

NNF18 - Alice through the Looking Glass. Photo: Courtesy of Norfolk and Norwich Festival - Credit: Courtesy of Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Thumbing through the Norfolk & Norwich Festival programme, I'm not sure if this is a stand-alone show, or really an education workshop. The Britten Sinfonia website tells me that it offers an introduction to the likes of Beethoven, Ravel, Satie, Tchaikovsky and Bartok. Is this going to be entertaining or… improving?

My uncertainty has translated itself to my four year old, who thinks he might be in for some kind of covert lecture. 'Do we have to go to this?' he asks me.

But his worries are quickly dispelled. The event as devised by Jesse Maryon-Davies, is a playful and extremely charming piece of storytelling, which uses music and words to maximum effect.

Maryon-Davies is a concert pianist and workshop leader, who has not stood still since leaving the Royal Academy of Music in 2008. Much admired for her musical ability, she also turns out to be an excellent actress, and the atmosphere of fun she creates on stage brings out the best in everybody - including the audience.

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The musicians from Britten Sinfonia (a band of five) would be best described as tip-top! 'You're really good!' pipes up a small voice, as French Horn player Kirsty Howe sneaks down the aisle, wiffling like the Jabberwocky in a tulgey wood.

It's quite hard to bring out the drama of Lewis Carroll's children's classic, because it works in such an episodic way. But as Alice proceeds through the looking glass and out into the magical world on the other side, the rapport between orchestra and narrator turns a small selection of the stories into an exciting narrative with an inspiring, imaginative sound-world.

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And with imaginary crowns to put on and curtsies to perform, we are not allowed to be caught napping. The audience is even invited to make up a song together to sing as a finale.

If there is a repeat of this fine show, don't let it pass you by.

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