Christopher Wheeldon’s crazily bold interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s famous tale returns to the Covent Garden stage to provide a fitting start to the Royal Ballet’s season.
Less a ballet, more a total theatrical experience, it has become a favourite with audiences since its premiere in 2011, and it is easy to see why.
The set design and costumes are outstanding — one can only marvel at the inventiveness of the multi-award winning Bob Crowley, who has conjured up a colourful Wonderland, playing with perspective and dimension to great effect. For the design alone, this production deserves five stars.
As we follow Alice — beautifully danced by Lauren Cuthbertson at the performance I saw — down the rabbit hole, we encounter an array of strange characters including Fernando Montano’s rubber-limbed Caterpillar and Edward Watson’s flustered White Rabbit. Laura Morera makes a wonderfully deranged Queen of Hearts, careering across the stage in a huge red costume, and parodying Sleeping Beauty’s famous Rose Adage — in this version she stuffs her face with jam tarts instead of collecting roses!
The ensemble pieces work well, including a pretty Flower Waltz and a dance for the corps dressed as a pack of cards, with the tutus echoing the shapes of the four different suits. The flamingos too, are a clever invention, with dancers clad in pink, flamingo heads at the end of their arms, dipping and swooping to the music.
There is so much happening on stage that at times it becomes chaotic and difficult to follow (thank heavens for the long, detailed synopsis in the programme) but it all adds to the fun and general sense of mayhem.
Steven McRae drew cheers from the audience with a wild tap solo — this artist, so glorious to watch in classical roles, is a skilled tap dancer, too. Add into the mix a gigantic Cheshire cat, magically appearing (thanks to dancers dressed entirely in black — they weren’t always completely invisible) and you have the ingredients for a thoroughly entertaining evening.
There will be a number of casts dancing at different performances over the next few weeks. This ballet gives plenty of opportunities for the whole company to shine, and the dancers certainly look like they are having a lot of fun.
The Royal Ballet’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is at the Royal Opera House until 28 October, with a live cinema performance on 23 October. www.roh.org.uk