Friday, 4 March 2011

Alice in wonderful-land

Last night I went to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, Christopher Wheeldon’s new two-act ballet at the Royal Opera House. It was something like the third performance – but then, they are only doing six. My mum is gnashing her teeth, as there were no matinees, and she would have loved to see it. Now I’ll be going to see her this weekend and I’m afraid I’ll ratchet her frustration up a notch - because she’s bound to ask how “Alice” went, and I’ll have to be honest. “Alice” is brilliant.

It’s mad, too, of course, but then “Alice in Wonderland” ought to be. It's very funny and great fun. It has amazing design and staging, looks stunning, and manages to graft a moderately logical story onto Carroll’s original tale without crippling it in the process. And it is packed with lovely, expressive, true classical dance. Mr Wheeldon can feel very, very proud of himself; he’s given the Company an out-and-out winner. This should stay in the repertoire for a long time, or I’ll eat my hat.

The design is a major element, it’s true, possibly more so than in an older, more established piece. It’s hard to imagine the Cheshire Cat sequences, for example, being done with other designs – but then, if it is a success and supposing another company wants to acquire it into their repertoire in ten years time, Mr Wheeldon will still be a young fella then, and can tweak things if necessary to accommodate a different designer’s vision. In the meantime, well, Covent Garden has the technical facilities to do something that requires complicated sets, multiple drop curtains, forward and back projections, marionettes and butoh-style puppetry and so forth, so why shouldn’t they use what they’ve got? Just as they have the means, in casting terms, to fill the stage to the brim with dancers (looking at the curtain call I was thinking “good grief, am I dreaming or is practically everyone in the Company on stage right now?”) and to field performers of the calibre of Sarah Lamb, Federico Bonelli and Tamara Rojo as the second cast…

I don’t want to just write a string of superlatives (I think I do too much of that as it is), so I’ll shut up now and finish by saying, if you possibly can, get a day ticket for one of the three remaining performances next week. You won’t regret it.

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