Alice was Wonderful but it’s The Queen who Triumphs

Tamara Rojo as the Red Queen in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Ballet. Pic by Dave Morgan via dancelines.com.au

Sometimes you just have to negotiate in a marriage. Like when your DH can’t be with you on your anniversary and as “punishment”, has to take you to the ballet.

The one that’s currently playing in Melbourne is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by The Australian Ballet. We were happy (or at least, I was) to be in the audience watching its first public performance in Australia a.k.a their final dress rehearsal. So here’s my review and I’m cutting to the chase.

The production is wonderful but it isn’t without flaws. I’m talking about at least, the first act, after which I was hearing “murmurings” around me in the audience about how the ballet technically just wasn’t “there”. It just didn’t match the grandeur of the stage sets, the costumes and special effects which easily earn full marks.

Thankfully, it gets better.

Amber Scott, a principal dancer with The Australian Ballet and one of five who plays Alice in this production, graces the cover of the program.

The show promises an Alice experience like you’ve never seen before. And indeed, the production is a visual feast that is off the charts, impressive on every sensory scale as we follow Alice down digital spiralling holes, eat cakes that mess with her size and barely escape the axe that wields violently and randomly in the hands of the Duchess’s cook.

I could tell you so much more but why spoil the dizzying fun.

Act 2 commenced and I could feel the critics in the audience finally begin to warm up. While Act 1 emphasised storytelling through sets, effects and interactions both human and animal, Act 2 dispelled any doubts that we were here to see a ballet, albeit Mad Tea-Party style.

We’re also introduced to The Queen. Da Queen!

The Queen of Hearts was deliciously played by Nicola Curry, formerly from American Ballet Theatre. She knew all the rules and then bent them like a flamingo’s neck, as any  performer worth her salt playing the Queen would do. Except how many Queen of Hearts would do a 180 degree split, then twist in the opposite direction still in split position and barely moving her toes? She alone was worth the ticket price and it was in Act 3 that she fully reigned on the stage, much to our delight.

Our Alice was played by Lauren Cuthbertson, who played the original Alice in London in 2011 and appears in this production as a guest artist from the Royal Ballet. Truth be told, I couldn’t make up my mind about her. Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice is cast a little older than the traditional Alice and she has a love interest. Lauren is convincing as a youthful, alert, curious protagonist but in my mind, fell a little short in mesmerising dance movement. I realise this is contrary to the many glowing reviews she received in London for this very role.

I’ve since learned that there are five dancers taking turns to play Alice’s physically demanding role. (Mad) hats off just for that. Several dancers rotate to play The Queen too.

Without a doubt, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a spectacle to behold and pushes boundaries in ballet not seen before, like the fantastic inclusion of puppetry.

The proof? My DH did not fall asleep.

Dessert served during interval.

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plays in Melbourne till 30/9/2017, then Sydney 5-22/12/2017

 

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