The Royal Ballet's Alice - coming to a big screen near you

The company's brightest stars are back in Wonderland – and this time it's hitting the cinemas too

Two years after its world premiere, the Royal Ballet's first full-length creation in two decades is back at the Royal Opera House, and this time it is coming to a cinema near you. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to a specially composed score by Joby Talbot, is the ROH's next live cinecast. It stars its original Alice and Lewis Carroll/White Rabbit, respectively Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson; and the pair agree that this ballet is the perfect choice for the big screen.

"It's a bit like a crazy movie anyway," says Watson. "There's so much going on, the colours are so bright and the characters are extremely vivid." Cuthbertson adds: "I think it'll work best out of all the productions we've relayed."

Cuthbertson, 28, and Watson, 36, are two of only three British principals currently in the Royal Ballet, the third being Rupert Pennefather. Trained at the company's own school, which they entered as children, they share certain qualities beyond this background; not least, each cuts a strikingly individual figure both within the company and in the profession as a whole.

Cuthbertson's sparky nature has made her a favourite not only on stage, but also on Twitter – follow her at @LondonBallerina. In performance she's a dynamic, spontaneous dancer with lengthy limbs and a penchant for ecstatic whirls; she excels, too, in dramatic roles such as the heroine of Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet.

Her progress to Alice was anything but straightforward. In spring 2009 she was stricken with glandular fever, which then turned into postviral fatigue syndrome and kept her off the Covent Garden stage for about 18 months. The hardest part of it, she says, was coming back. "It is very tricky, mentally – you don't realise how tricky, in fact, until you're coming out the other end. When I was sick I didn't really know how ill I was or where my career had gone. I didn't realise the absence of it until I was starting to feel better. And suddenly you think, 'Right, OK – oh shit, what's happened to everyone?'"

Having endured more than her fair share of troubles – first that illness, and then, last year, surgery on her ankle which later had to be redone – she has bounced back with determination. "I still have the joy of dance in me after all that," she says. "Once I got going in the studio again my coach had to tell me to calm down. It felt so fantastic that I just wanted to carry on."

Watson, whose inner strength can unleash with almost terrifying intensity on stage, is widely regarded as the company's most acrobatic, versatile and dramatically profound male principal. He is renowned for his roles in Arthur Pita's award-winning Kafka creation The Metamorphosis and as the tormented Crown Prince Rudolf in MacMillan's Mayerling – both ballets in which he is appearing this spring.

Each has been perceived as a choreographer's muse – Watson to Wayne McGregor ("In many ways I am what Wayne has made me," he declares) and Cuthbertson to Wheeldon, who featured her in his Souvenirs for a ROH gala when she was only 16 and still at the Royal Ballet School.

But it was when she created the role of Alice that the public's view of Cuthbertson shifted from much-loved principal dancer to internationally recognised prima ballerina. "It injected my career humungously, in a very titanic, energetic way," she says.

"For nearly three months before the premiere I didn't have a performance, so I was able to be Alice from the moment I got out of bed. I cut my hair into a six-year-old-style bob so that I could prance around being her. It made me realise that in other ballets I should make sure I understand my roles as fully as I do Alice, because I got so much more out of it."

But one vital member of the original cast is no longer there. The young Ukrainian star Sergei Polunin, who created the role of Jack/the Knave of Hearts, partnering Cuthbertson's Alice, walked out of the Royal Ballet without warning in January 2012. Since then, he has found a new home with the Stanislavsky Ballet in Moscow.

"It was a huge shock when Sergei left," Cuthbertson says. "I'd never expected him to stay around for long, but it came at a moment when I was thoroughly enjoying performing with him. We were meant to be doing Romeo and Juliet and Alice together, and suddenly to have to prepare two huge ballets with two new partners in a very short space of time, one of which was Alice, which had a whole new section and the other one, Romeo, which was being screened in cinemas – well, it was a lot to do. Still, he's happy now. What more could you want for a colleague and friend?" Federico Bonelli stepped into his shoes with aplomb, she adds – "He was like a knight in shining armour!" – and he will dance the role on the first night and in the cinema relay.

The cinecasts mean significant extra pressure: "They're quite scary," says Watson, "as it's the biggest audience we have for a single show."

But they are also vital to the dissolving of boundaries that in the age of social media and the internet are no longer necessary between stage and audience. Cuthbertson says: "I'd like to think that the ballet world is breaking down barriers and traditions without diluting the product – the important thing is that the standard we strive for shouldn't be compromised." Twitter is part of that too. "You get a different insight into our work – at the ballet often people can feel quite removed from what they're seeing. Inviting that kind of exchange can only be a healthy thing, and it's great fun."

And fun – the joy of dance – is what it is all about. "There's a lovely moment in Act I for Alice and the Knave when I feel so free," says Cuthbertson. "I love moments when you're dancing together as a duet, not as a pas de deux, and here it feels like you're playing with your best friend, jumping around in the woods, in the green among all the flowers. It takes me back to when I was a child in that kind of open space – just jumping around."

'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020 7304 4000) 15 March to 13 April. Live cinema relay on 28 March: cinema.roh.org.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Stinson Hunter and his associates Stubbs and Grime in Channel 4 documentary The Paedophile Hunter

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
This Banksy mural in Clacton has been removed by the council
art
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?