Phrases by Saskia Horton. Saskia took half in our Visitor Writers programme, a writers improvement programme supported by Arts Council England.
By no means have I seen a tackle this much-beloved basic that’s so ground-breaking & canonically Queer. Regardless of the otherworldly nature of CTC Company’s Wonderland in Alice (and it’s apparent potential to be head-cannoned by LGBT viewers with an abundance of queer subtext) earlier variations have finished little to floor the story in a actuality we recognise. As an alternative, leaning into the dissociative dream-like nature of all of it.
The live-action movies are predictably darkish and Tim Burton-esque, the 60s animation basic, whimsical and wayward. And a latest theatre efficiency by Zoonation: The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, tried to narrate Wonderland to a world of psychological sickness, representing the characters as sufferers in an ‘establishment’. A therapist arriving on the scene to ‘remedy’ all people is then dragged right into a world of nonsensical folly, erupting right into a table-dancing, tea-party. So it appears these investing time in Wonderland variations typically get drunk off their very own fancy. Contrastingly, this avant-garde dance-theatre piece is a grounded take for a narrative so steeped in surrealism.
The varied vary of well-made characters is a stand-out issue. Every with their very own motion language; from the creeping, crawling White rabbit, the Cheshire Cat’s flicking legs & sensuous steps, the Mad Hatter, with rocking grooves & lilting strains and lastly the Crimson Queen who struts, vogues and serves. It seamlessly portrays an concept concerning the kinship of a selected household. That amongst the odd-balls & misfits of Wonderland there might be discovered, an actual sense of group.
“Discovering your self” is a central tenet to the present, illustrated by the blue neon gentle ablaze on the again wall ingraining the query “Who’re you?” in our unconscious from the very starting. Even the inverted title “Wonderland in Alice” suggests deeper deal with inner exploration than exterior wonderment. Which is demonstrated as we see Alice escape from all earlier definitions of themself by Wonderland. Studying classes from & interacting with every character, their motion language begins off small, quiet and pedestrian earlier than it builds to a climactic solo. Right here, they take up all of the house; leaping, bounding, crashing throughout the stage in a second of chaos and an expression deeply paying homage to a ‘Queer turning into’.
The Narrator’s boundless vitality stands out above the ensemble. It’s apparent that they (Caitlyn “Acken” Taylor) wrote all the present. Their scene-stealing presence appears higher suited to a west-end stage relatively than that of a small group theatre. Nevertheless, they nonetheless mix seamlessly into the material, their beat-driven lyricism weaving twirling our bodies into a luxurious soundtrack.
The costume design is completely gender-bendy and camp to swimsuit ‘Genderless’ characters, utilizing they/them pronouns, (as described by Christopher Tendai, choreographer). Alice is heroically butch, clad in corset, underwired petticoat & a blue micro-shirt; strongly contrasting the Crimson Queen who’s fantastically trans-femme adorned with glitzy velvet gloves. Even the scrumptious ‘drink me’ bottles scene, appears to allude to real-life results of gender transition & defying the binary with the road: “Simply the appropriate dimension, however I can’t get in, irrespective of the adjustments I make, I can’t win”.
The set design is a masterful facet of the work. A lopsided rhombus strip gentle borders the stage, blurring the characters in implausible blue-white flashes. Life-size 3D taking part in playing cards swoop & slice: taking us down the rabbit gap, into the MadHouse, by the maze to the Queen. The set accentuates the dancers’ motion, giving gravitas to the choreography in addition to the phantasm that there are extra folks on stage.
The climax of the piece, nonetheless, falls brief. After a rousing confrontation between the Queen & Alice, refusing to struggle their sturdy hyper-feminine counterpart anymore, they stumble into an ungainly embrace. It’s only for a second, nevertheless it appears like a missed cue. Maybe if the hug had been relaxed into, it may characterize a decision of types. Of Alice embracing their stark reverse, inside battle or full self. The second is missed nonetheless and unfolds into an overemphatic duet with sickly candy music.
General high quality of music manufacturing on the night time had some distortion and lack of readability between the layers. Though a notable second was the ‘membership scene’ on the ‘Mad home’ with the Narrator’s bars tripping off the tongue, to pumping beat & driving bass, which contrasted the cheesier ‘musical theatre’ moments, which felt amiss with out the remainder of the forged bursting into music.
General, it’s a profitable revival of a tried-and-tested narrative. And one that truly has one thing to say for itself. By way of a singular mixture of dance, character-work, poetry and design it paints a world, not so dissimilar to our personal. Talking on the real-life trials and tribulations of coming to phrases with oneself outdoors of the confines of packing containers that society units for us.