Frankie Parham discovers oysters and boiler suits in Through the Looking Glass4/5With the pantomime season over, audiences may find it hard to stomach more childish theatrics. Not so with Emily Lim’s vigorous new production. This is no panto, but a dark, original remake of Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking Glass. Unpleasant characters lurk around every corner of the chessboard Alice crosses, from harsh queens to cruel frogs. Although Lim has adapted Carroll’s text, improvising with her cast along the way, the quality of the original has not been lost.Tor Lupton as Alice is still the curious and confused pre-adolescent. She is confronted by an array of intimidating characters, brought to life by the use of a fourteen-strong Chorus. The Chorus members narrate the story in turn and portray everything Alice encounters, animal, vegetable or mineral. This kind of anthropomorphic Chorus is in danger of becoming a snarling, contorted freak-show. However the cast save themselves from this sorry fate with their excellent acting, and infuse each character with individuality. The audience feels sympathy for talking mutton and timid White Queen alike.The stage becomes cluttered with what looks like an industrial rubbish heap. The ‘conceptual’ costumes include boiler suits and bin liners worn by doomed oysters. The whole set, heaped with junk, reflects the back-to-front world of the Looking Glass. Accompanied by a cacophony of clarinets, basses and electronic recordings compiled by Danny Saleeb, Alice must face the prospect of a bleak and brutal world.Such a grand scale of dark lunacy sometimes feels exhausting. Yet by honouring Carroll’s love of wordplay, the production also brings out the humour that Carroll always intended. Exclaiming that she can’t see anybody wandering through the forest, Alice is strangely marvelled at by the White King for her ability to ‘see nobody’. Being in a looking glass, situations are not purely disturbing, but also comic in their reversal.It seems Lim’s adaptation often teeters on the brink of collapsing inwards through its own energy; faced with such chaotic disorder, an audience could become as frenzied as the unwelcoming banqueters at Alice’s palace. However, the grim perversion of the neutral space is just as magical as it is tantalising. ‘Leave off at seven’ is Humpty Dumpty’s advice – better not to grow up and face reality. After watching the show, prepare to feel unsure that you can ever say what you mean. This cast, at least, really mean what they say.
Open Eagle could look to follow in the hoofprints of illustrious stable companion Faugheen by winning the the Kirkland Investments Novice Hurdle at Limerick on December 29. Faugheen was an emphatic winner of the three-mile contest two years ago before going on to win that season’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and this year’s Champion Hurdle. Open Eagle, snapped up by the Supreme Horse Racing Club and sent to Willie Mullins after a demolition job in last year’s November Handicap at Doncaster for David O’Meara, disappointed on his hurdling debut at Punchestown in February, but righted that wrong on his seasonal reappearance at Fairyhouse last month. Press Association Steve Massey, who manages the club, said: ” We felt going to Fairyhouse Open Eagle was a much better horse than he was when he arrived at the yard a year ago and he proved it with a really smart performance. “He has an entry in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over two miles (December 27), but will also have the option of stepping up to three miles at Limerick on December 29. “As things stand, I think Limerick is probably where he’ll end up, going for a race Willie won with Faugheen a couple of years ago.”