Alice’s Wonderland has had a major upgrade to version 2016 and it’s good. ★★★★
Wonder.Land comes to us via Rufus Norris, Blur’s Damon Albarn, who wrote the score, and playwright Moira Buffini, who have taken Alice and Wonderland and brought it right up to date for 2016. If you liked the original then you will not be disappointed, if you can get past the online element to the new wonderland. The usual characters survive such as the mad hatter, the rabbit, the twins and of course the Cheshire Cat, but as you have never seen them before.
Alice or Aly, played by Lois Chimimba and brilliant, is a teenager growing up in a suburban city dealing with a mother’s attention focused on baby brother Charlie, the feeling of responsibility for her parents’ separation and being bullied at school. Her only means of escaping the life she hates is a new online game ‘Wonder.Land’ where she can be who she wants and find answers to the ‘who are you’ question which is asked throughout.
It’s in this online world where Alice creates her online avatar persona, who is the complete opposite of herself, and follows the white rabbit through various online levels, meets other like minded gamers and battles against the red queen, who happens to be Aly’s head teacher in the real world with a hint of Cruella De Vil thrown in the mix.
The songs, which are easily recognisable as written by Damon Albarn, are great, each character having their own unique song that is the personification of that character. From the sad and desperate songs of Alice and her mother, the hypnotic and soothing song from the caterpillar and the mad and hectic song of the hatter all play their part in this wonderland on stage.
The staging itself is a mix of contemporary theatre, digital displays, weird and wonderful costumes and characters that all fuse seamlessly into one. The real world is grey and dull, even down to the costume which is in complete contrast to the colourful online world, and when they collide on stage, almost creates a hallucinogenic experience for both the stage characters and audience alike (not that I know what such an experience is like of course).
The only downside were the three school girl bullies who, when combined, reminded me a bit too much of Catherine Tate’s “am I bothered” sketches and I wasn’t sure if I should of laughed at their bullying or not.
That aside it was still worth a watch.
The modern musical story creates laughs, wonder, glitter, self driving sofas, and a baby throwing up, yes I did say a baby throwing up. So if you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland then you will not be disappointed by this modern take on the classic if you dare enter Wonder.Land at The National Theatre.
Also, for those who like that bit extra for their money, turn up a bit early for the fully interactive wonder.land things to do from entering the magical garden, creating your very own avatar to a musical tea party.
Wonder.Land plays at The National Theatre, London until 13 March 2016, 020 7452 3000