Tuesday, 15 December 2015

REVIEW wonder.land at the National Theatre


IT is a brave man who takes on the task of updating a classic of English literature and turning it into a modern day musical.
But that is what Blur frontman Damon Albarn has done with Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.
Collaborating with director Rufus Norris and Moira Buffini who wrote the words, wonder.land is surreal and bonkers - but in a good way.
It tells the story of teenager Aly. Her parents have split up, she’s had to move to a new part of town and a new school where she is bullied relentlessly. To find an escape, her rabbit hole, she turns to the internet and gaming where she can truly be herself.
She finds herself playing wonder.land, creating an avatar, Alice, that deliberately looks nothing like her.
This Alice is white, blonde, blue eyed and with vertiginous heals. Along the way she meets the White Rabbit, a gloriously colourful balloon shaped caterpillar, the mock turtle, the dodo and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.
To begin with all seems to go well but then Aly’s teacher Miss Manxome, confiscates her mobile phone and the trouble begins.
Miss Manxome, whose name is also Alice, takes on Aly’s avatar and turns her into something much nastier which threatens to destroy the game. She seems to morph into a cross between Cruella De Vil and the Queen of Hearts.
Elsewhere Aly’s father, who has a touch of Max Wall about him, becomes the Mad Hatter figure and the Cheshire Cat is an enormous hologram.
It was very clever with all the main characters - who were brightly coloured and vibrant - recognisable in Aly’s virtual world, the real version of which was distinctly grey and non descript.
Visually it was stunning with graphics, moving props, holograms and plenty to dazzle your eyes.
The tunes may not be musical theatre gems and won't necessarily have you humming on the way home but there is a mix of styles.
Ultimately this may prove to be a marmite show - personally I loved it.

Wonder.land is on at the National Theatre until Saturday, April 30. Tickets from £15. Visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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