Aelfa Centauri Theatre Company hit the Camden Fringe this week with their new comedy show, inspired by a certain Alice’s madcap adventure down a rabbit hole. Appropriately playing at the Rabbit Hole NW3 (in the basement of the Duke of Hamilton pub in Hampstead), this show puts the Mad Hatter and the March Hare at the centre of the tale, and sends them on their very own madcap adventure. After the tragic passing of their good friend the Dormouse, the oddball pair are forced out of Wonderland on a tea-themed quest that takes them across the planet and into a net of suspicious spies and crazy cops.
While some nerves were evident on the company’s opening night, the two-man cast of Maximilian Hooper (Hatter) and Elliot Thomas (Hare) throw a bundle of energy into this performance and raise plenty of laughs. The plot itself is absolutely bonkers – including such themes as the invention of tea, The Phantom of the Opera, the Cold War and ghostly paintings – and the style reminds me somewhat of the Armageddapocalpyse series of shows by Exploding Fist Productions that did the rounds in Cambridge and the Edinburgh Fringe a few years back. By that I mean the utter over-the-top nature of the characterisation, the giggle-inducing running jokes that crop up throughout, and the penchant for the farcical that both companies seem to have.
There’s no doubt that Hooper and Thomas are two very funny guys, and the duo provoke lots of boisterous laughter from the enthusiastic crowd. I confess I was laughing a little less than others in the audience, although perhaps it’s a matter of personal taste. Yet for me, too often a funny accent at a loud volume takes precedence over real wit or considered writing. There are certainly flashes of it there, and some genuinely funny sequences, but it needs more consistency: there are moments where a scene starts out with a strong idea and ends up floundering somewhere along the way. The subtle references to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland universe work well, and it would be nice to see some more of these to anchor the plot a little more.
However, what can’t be denied is the level of energy and zeal of Thomas and Hooper. They carry the audience with them and sail through any stumbling blocks in the writing with impressive rapid changes between a myriad of characters. As a duo, they work tightly together and there’s a sense of raucous enjoyment in all that they perform.