We are invited into the ailing Mrs Grey's bedchamber, in the church itself, where we fill the pews to Anne-Marie Piazza's hauntingly beautiful singing. From there we head through the looking glass into the church gardens – a veritable wonderland of lights, roses, upside down umbrellas, chess pieces and a red and white forest of poles.
The play moves at a great clip and this accomplished company are obviously having a wonderful time as they slide between characters. Jos Vantyler was a particular favourite and must be commended not only for his accents, of which there are many, but also his wonderful physicality – his appearance as the wind was laugh-out-loud funny and his lion was an absolute treat.
Indeed all the actors bring beautifully stylised performances to their varying roles; Nick Howard-Brown's White Knight is heartwarming, Dafydd Gwyn Howell 's Tweedledee surprisingly edgy, Anne-Marie Piazza's Red Queen a good mix of imperiousness and kindness while Valerie Cutko's White Queen is suitably eccentric. Laura Wickham, as Alice, has arguably the hardest role and does a good job of managing audience interaction without descending too far into pantomime.
Director Jamie Jackson uses the space effectively and you never feel like you're missing any of the action, although if you're short, or taking someone small, you'd be wise to head to the front of the church. There's no rake so the final scene can be a little hard to see if you're at the back.
A play with songs, Candida Caldicot's composition is an accomplished mix of jaunty tunes and a sweet ballad – ably lead by musical director Leo Elso - and easily supports writer Daniel Winder's clever adaptation which suits young and old alike.
A joyful romp through a story about bravery and moving on – it's imaginative, entertaining, heart-warming and perfect for a summer's evening, especially if you need to be reminded that anything can happen.