Phill Jupitus and Andre Vincent: Waiting For Alice
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
Two corpulent fictional individuals reach the end of their tether in an old book. Will their lead character ever arrive to advance the story or will they remain trapped, forever unread?
This is one of those shows that’s fallen into the wrong place in the Fringe programme. Billed as comedy, and starring japesters Phill Jupitus and Andre Vincent, you might expect a ribald cavalcade of gags. Instead, it’s a rather deft, enjoyable piece of theatre
The two comics no doubt underwent a rigrous physical training routine to get into the right shape to play Tweedledum and Tweedledee, stuck in the pages of Through The Looking Glass, idling away the time before Alice next passes by. The only problem is that she hasn’t been seen for more than 68 years.
In this time the pair have become like an argumentative old married couple, who’ve been through every domestic row a thousand times before. Dum has got stuck in his ways, and rather pompously insists they fulfil their duty, rehearsing their lines for Alice’s next coming. Dee, contrariwise, is listless, rebelling against his brother’s conservatism out of boredom rather than passion. While Dum is well turned out in the required uniform, Dee’s string vest is still showing.
They quarrel endlessly – that is, after all, their raison d’etre – and completely childishly; trading cheap insults and immature wordplay of the kind Lewis Carroll so loved. Carroll didn’t devise the pair, as a quick glance at Wikipedia or a viewing of this play will tell you, they were possibly invented for a poem by John Byrom satirising a row between salad-dodging composers Bononcini and Handel.
The bickering, teasing and juvenile name-calling is good fun, occasionally laugh-aloud funny, but generally just cheerful. When the piece tries to get more serious, it’s less successful. The underlying message about children’s literature becoming increasingly irrelevant is rather unsubtly brought up (and not as clear-cut as they claim, as JK Rowling’s bank balance will attest) and the ending is easy to see coming.
The best thing about this play, though, is something few people will never really see. One night Jupitus plays Dee, the next he plays Dum; and likewise for Vincent. That’s a incredibly neat device – even if does lead to the occasional, understandable stumbling over lines – but you’d have to be a very dedicated fan to witness it.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett