Nightlife: Alice in clubland upsets Lewis Carroll fans
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Tuesday 30 September 1997
David Lister finds the publishers of the classic story are not happy.
A staged "rave" based on Alice in Wonderland and bursting with drug references is to tour dance clubs, to the fury of the Lewis Carroll Society.
Planet Alice, as it will be known, has a high profile backer in rock promoter Harvey Goldsmith. It will feature both music and actors dressed as characters from the book. The "chill out" room where dancers go to relax will have an ongoing Mad Hatters' tea party.
But the novel departure on the club scene of having what amounts to a staged performance is likely to be overshadowed by the drugs allusions in the script.
Allusions to drugs in Alice have long intrigued literary scholars. And in the Sixties, American west coast group Jefferson Airplane had an international hit with "White Rabbit", a drug anthem whose enigmatic lyrics were capable of a variety of interpretations.
The new club show, aimed at the late teens and early twenties, eschews the Jefferson Airplane enigmatic approach. In a typical extract, the narrator says:
"The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts and dosed them with LSD. The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and fed his reality."
The creative force behind Planet Alice is Debbie Sapsford, a clubs events organiser, who formerly organised Monday night "raves" on Brighton beach. She described the new concept yesterday as an "eclectic mix of interactive multi-media mayhem and contemporary dance culture, theatre clashing with clubland".
Fellow producer John Goldsmith, who is working with music promoter Harvey Goldsmith (no relation) on the project, said: "Most clubgoers have taken drugs. It happens in our society and very much in the club scene. We're showing things as they are. Alice is a very trippy story and Lewis Carroll was a user of drugs. We're just showing an updated version."
However, this was disputed yesterday by Kate Wilson, publisher of Macmillan's Children's Books, which publishes Alice In Wonderland. "There's nothing in any of Lewis Carroll's biographies that would led you to assume that those references were intended," she said. "Members of the Lewis Carroll Society will not like this. It would be sad if Alice becomes in any way associated with something that isn't wholesome. It is actually very much to do with innocence."
The pre-production costs of the Planet Alice project have been pounds 40,000, a fraction of what a rock concert takes to produce, but a large sum for the club scene.
In the show, lasers project teapots and mushrooms, there are visuals such as Cheshire cats and chess pieces, and characters on stilts and trapezes. There has been one rehearsal evening to date, at London's Ministry of Sound club, and now the show will tour clubs and universities around the country, climaxing in a New Year's Eve event at Alexandra Palace, in London.
It is the first time that Harvey Goldsmith - known for his promotions of some of the biggest names in rock - has been involved with a club culture happening, and shows that the mainstream rock industry is trying to get closer to what it sees as the cutting edge.
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