Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House, London
Monday 19 March 2012
The Royal Ballet’s Alice has sensational production design and an overstuffed storyline. Putting Lewis Carroll’s Alice books on stage, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon wants to include all the famous bits. He and his design team conjure dazzling illusions, from shrinking Alice to a marvellous Cheshire Cat, but the dancing can get squeezed to the sidelines.
Created in 2011, when it was an immediate hit, Wheeldon’s Alice wrestles to create a coherent plot from Carroll’s surreal progression of incidents. Nicholas Wright’s scenario starts with an Oxford party held by Alice’s parents. The guests then turn up in the Wonderland of her dream. Lewis Carroll becomes the White Rabbit; the gardener’s boy Jack becomes the Knave of Hearts; Alice’s own overbearing mother becomes a monstrous Queen of Hearts. Wright and Wheeldon add real-life counterparts for every major character, until the stage is distractingly crowded.
The plunge into Wonderland is brilliantly done. Lauren Cuthbertson’s Alice dives down the rabbit hole and becomes a puppet, falling through swirling projections by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington. When Cuthbertson lands in a world of doors, she chases one small, elusive door: delightfully remote-controlled, it keeps whirring out of reach.
This sequence is Wheeldon’s best choreography for Alice. As the scenery changes size around her, Cuthbertson wriggles and flows as she grows and shrinks. Jumping for an out-of-reach door handle, she’s assertive and determined, with crisp footwork and fluid lines.
After that, we lose track of her in the whirl of characters and images. Bob Crowley’s designs are superb throughout, but Wheeldon’s choreography ranges from lively to sketchy. The caucus race and the Duchess’s house are horribly repetitive. In this first revival, Wheeldon has cut his long first act into two, but he’d have done better to trim it.
Things perk up in what is now the second act. Steven McRae is a breezy, tap-dancing Mad Hatter, bouncing off the stage of a toy theatre onto a trampoline shaped like a Victoria sponge. Eric Underwood makes a gorgeously sinuous Caterpillar, with one of the most infectious numbers in Joby Talbot’s colourful score.
The Queen of Hearts makes sure she’s the centre of attention. Wheeldon gives her a parody of The Sleeping Beauty’s Rose Adagio, with terrified cavaliers partnering Laura Morera’s wittily horrible Queen. Federico Bonelli is a lyrical Knave, with Edward Watson a twitchy, distinctive White Rabbit. This Alice is a fine spectacle, but a thin ballet.
Until 16 April. Box office 020 7304 4000
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Emma Watson on Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Scottish independence referendum: Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit to play in support of Yes campaign
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Olivia Colman and Mary Berry top Radio Times' female power list
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain