Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House, London

3.00

 

In The Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a late switch of heroines makes less difference than you’d think. On opening night, Sarah Lamb stepped in for an indisposed Lauren Cuthbertson – a dancer who has suffered more than her share of illness, missing several high-profile performances in the past few months. Lamb is a perky Alice, but Christopher Wheeldon’s 2011 ballet is more about dazzling illusions than about his heroine.

Following a scenario by playwright Nicholas Wright, Wheeldon starts the story in Lewis Carroll’s Oxford, where the parents of young Alice Liddell are preparing for a tea party. Her family and the guests reappear in her Wonderland dream, with Edward Watson’s bookish Carroll transformed into a twitchy White Rabbit and her mother now a monstrous Queen of Hearts.

Designer Bob Crowley and projection designers Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington conjure an amazing Wonderland. Alice falls as a puppet through a whirling, hypnotic rabbit hole, and lands as a human dancer among a shimmering wall of growing and shrinking doors. She and the White Rabbit sail on a paper boat through a lavender-tinted landscape, full of scampering silhouetted animals. The Cheshire Cat, a brilliant bunraku puppet, deserves its round of applause.

Though Wheeldon gives her a romance with Federico Bonelli’s lyrical Jack of Hearts, his Alice is a largely passive character, watching everybody else’s numbers from the sidelines. Lamb is best in Alice’s tantrum dance, as she tries to reach the handle on an outsized door: I wish Wheeldon had given her more bossiness.

Too many dancers are weighed down by their characters, or by overextended scenes. The Duchess’s cottage is terrifying, a kitchen full of dead pigs and meat grinders, given extra menace by the blare of Joby Talbot’s score. Beyond the gruesome setting, though, Gary Avis’s Duchess doesn’t have much to do.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party works better. There’s adorable theatrical detail to the designs – a trampoline sponge cake, theatre footlights shaped like teacups – but the Hatter also gets a rattling tap solo. Alexander Campbell manages not to be  upstaged by his own mad wig and costume, and copes breezily with the tap steps. Watson’s White Rabbit is charmingly twitchy, all nerves and quivers.

The best dancing role is the Queen of Hearts. Zenaida Yanowsky makes a magnificent, monstrous diva, swaggering through Wheeldon’s Sleeping Beauty parody and flirting viciously with her terrified court. When one of Yanowsky’s crimson curls came loose, she brushed it imperiously aside, then bickered with her King (Christopher Saunders) about fixing it: all in character, all hilarious.

Until 13 April. Box office 020 7304 4000.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before