Saturday, 25 July 2015

Alice and the Looking Glass Life

A couple of weeks ago Lorna and I went to see a production of James Reaney's adaption of Alice, Through the Looking Glass at the Confederation Theatre in Charlottetown.  The production was interesting—to use a non-committal word.  To be more specific it engaged me in a number of areas.  I don’t know James Reaney’s interpretation to enable me separate what was his from the director’s stamp on the production.  However, aspects of it were not, to my knowledge, contained in the original version by Lewis Carroll.  

The production set out to engage the audience directly in what could be considered a post-modern interpretation.  The audience was directly engaging with the production by having two lucky young people selected to pull a chord which descended from the ceiling.  The audience was also showered at a couple of points with objects—first little packets of jelly beans and then with streamers.  It also had bubbles descending on us at various points in the production.  I found that, at the least, it didn’t take away from the production if it didn’t necessarily add to it.  Another attempt to engage the audience was to have various members of the chorus mug the audience shamelessly at various points.  There were other things that tended to distract from the main action.  There were, as Lorna pointed out, unfortunate distractions from the meaningful internal and external dialogue that Alice engages in as she attempts to understand the curious world in which she finds herself.  Another rather confusing and unclear element was the dressing of the male chorus members in female garb.  When it became clear that the rather plain members of the chorus were actually male, the confusion took a turn to wondering why?  The idea of the director, Adam Brazier, may have been to capture the confusion of Alice in this inside out world.  However, to my way of thinking it would have been more effective to have all chorus members in opposite gender garb as in the looking glass everything is backwards and inside out. 

The production did a creditable job of presenting many of Lewis Carroll’s wonderful characters in this dream world; self-satisfied Humpty Dumpty, the poor muddled kindly White Knight, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—sorry wrong play—I meant the Walrus and the Carpenter and the poor fated singing oysters, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Natasha Greenblatt’s Alice was wonderful and her performance gave a marvelous interpretation of her character.   In all it was definitely worth seeing.

That being said, what truly engaged me was the awareness that all this Wonderland of Alice’s took place in a dream.  It harkened back to the Summer Dream and Spirituality Conference that Lorna and I attended at Kanuga Center in Hendersonville North Carolina before coming to the Land of Anne (she of Green Gables).  As in The Wizard of Oz, the girl heroine is in a dream world comprised of archetypal characters that are sometimes friendly, sometimes helpful, sometimes frightening, sometimes dangerous, awful and awe-full, and always Wonderful (thinking of Alice’s first adventure).  In a dream it is helpful to understand all the images as parts of yourself which are often just those things; friendly, frightening, helpful, dangerous, and awful and awe-full and wonderful.   
If Alice’s adventure Through the Looking Glass were my dream what would I make of all those wonderful characters who would be part of me?  What part of me is the inflated pompous Humpty Dumpty?  Which part of me is the confused, out of touch kindly White Knight who takes things literally?  What part is the Carpenter and which the Walrus, both of whom are described by Alice as “very unpleasant characters” eating the poor innocent oysters.  Indeed what part of me is the innocent foolish oysters?    The mind boggles but they are all there for me to explore.  I believe that is a large part of the enduring stories of Alice that Lewis Carroll created.    Which character resonates most with you and which do you want to avoid connecting with the most?  Enjoy your trip into the Looking Glass World. 

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