It’s easy to see why Belt Up are drawn to Lewis Carroll. Indeed the only surprise might be that a company whose watchword is “playful” has taken so long to get to a writer who had next to no interest in the adult world.
Now they bring us Outland, a magical mystery tour through his most fantastical and best-loved works. Snippets of The Hunting of the Snark, Jabberwocky and The Lobster Quadrille are interwoven, at breakneck and bewildering speed, with dramatised extracts from his last novel Sophie and Bruno and episodes of pure panto-style audience participation (and of the company’s own invention) to create… what?
I keep coming back to panto. The acting style, the gags (the King of Dogland asking for a frisbee) are purely of that genre. And the energetic and charismatic company of three seems more at home there than with simple naturalistic invention, which occasionally seems to render them almost gauche and ill at ease.
But seated within a cross between a Victorian sitting room and an elaborate Bedouin tent – a perfect expression of the constant shift between reality and adventure at the heart of this enthralling show - it’s impossible to ignore the extraordinary spell cast during the course of one short hour.
Clarity is obviously not a company watchword; the script needs tightening and reworking. But this is a charming fantasy, born of the work of one of our greatest fantasists. This is your own personal Neverland.