Review: Royal Ballet's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
When I first heard that the Royal Ballet had commissioned a production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I was sceptical. How on earth was this going to work? After watching the live streaming of the 2012 production from the Royal Opera House my question was answered. Of course it would work, and work beautifully at that. The iconic characters and vivid pictures that Lewis Carroll's book created truly come to life on stage. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was destined to become a ballet.
In this beautifully adapted version, we begin at a party in Victorian Oxford, where Lewis Carroll is employed at the university and is attending a party held by the Liddell family. Carroll entertains the families three daughters, one of whom is Alice. At the party, Alice spots the gardener Jack, and he gives her a rose, and in exchange Alice gives him a jam tart. From here, events begin to eerily foreshadow what is to come, and Alice escapes to Wonderland by jumping into the camera bag belonging to Carroll as she follows the now very rabbit-like author into a magical world.
This production is a perfect example of when all the elements combine to make the best possible show; Christopher Wheeldon's choreography is innovative and speaks to the audience, clearly communicating what is going on. Clever choices are made to give Alice the awkward, child-like movement needed to convey her age and naivety, and making the Mad Hatter a tap dancer is a brilliant way of conveying the character's idiosyncratic nature. The movements also complement and often accent Joby Talbot's score beautifully. The music itself is superb and could easily tell this much loved story without the aid of dancers. Bob Crowley's design for Alice is incredible. perhaps the best I've ever seen on stage or on film. The costumes are stunning and cleverly designed, the set is amazing and the use of puppetry for Alice falling down the rabbit-hole and the Cheshire Cat is well executed.
The performers are lucky to be gifted with such brilliant characters, but all members of the company excell themselves by giving unique and original performances. Sarah Lamb as Alice is charming and her pas de deuxs with Federico Bonelli, who plays Jack, (and looks very much like Tag from Friends) had the perfect energy and chemistry. Zenaida Yanowsky shines as the Queen of Hearts, with the most brilliant comic acting, making the character her own without saying a word. Honourable mentions must also go to Edward Watson and Steven McRae, as the White Rabbit/Lewis Carroll and the Mad Hatter respectively, as they both brought charm and character and danced exceptionally well.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is not just a ballet. It is a magical piece of theatre and a beautiful work of art. I haven't been this enchanted by a show in a long time; I could watch this over and over. Alice deserves to become a classic ballet, and one that I hope the Royal Ballet will keep in it's repetoire for many years to come. The run at the Royal Opera House is sold out, so I was so lucky to be able to see the production live-screened to a cinema. If you are lucky enough to have tickets, you will certainly not be disappointed. To everyone else, buy the DVD, and hope that they release more dates. Either way this show should be seen by one and all. Lovers of the book will be wowed, ballet and dance fans will be impressed and anyone looking for a brilliant night out will certainly get that.