Review by Wendy Samantha
A new year has rung in and so too has the muddled wonder of the delightfully mystical land that has popped out of the rabbit hole and spread itself across The Athenaeum Theatre. The setting is clearly one that is full of arts history, and as you walk up the royal purple carpet and into the foyer of one of Melbourne’s finest cultural hubs there is a buzz of excitement as you wander through the rooms where an invisible residue of all the stories that have been told in this beautiful building gathers in a creative aura held at the venue since the early 1800’s.
Now zooming to over 180 years later you could not ask for more on a pleasant summer evening than to visit Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale to start off your 2023. Twittering birds are what sets the scene for the start of Alice In Wonderland Live, with blue glowing across the domed ceiling, mushrooms scattered across the stage, gentle white spotlights cutting through the coloured hue and chittering families sitting at the edge of their seats in high anticipation for what is to be an incredible journey.
Sitting with my two young daughters waiting for the show to commence on it’s opening night, we enjoyed spotting the memorable characters or iconic story items as placed throughout the colourful background. There is a giant keyhole floating top centre, and shadows on the walls with spinning circles that draw you down the only too familiar tunnel that commences Alice’s journey. The dormouse’s voice opens the event only to suddenly fall asleep with a loud snore, and then we’re off to the caucus race!
The first thing that hits you about this theatrical performance is the delightfully intricate and delicate detail the bright costumes hold. Throughout the show it is clearly evident that so much thought went into how to bring to life each character who is dressed superbly. Special mention here to the caterpillar’s tail and the white rabbit’s court outfit. Lighting all adds to this, highlighting the story and adding to the magic of the adventure, as too the use of well timed appropriate music and sound effects. Hats off to the technical crew on hitting those cues!
As the story unfolds the ensemble narrate the tale and they transform into a large array of characters, both in acting the roles out and with the use of some gorgeous puppets. Their facial skills, physicality in characterisation and voice work truly brings to life this classic tale, and together their talents mesh to produce a strong chorus of tones that are highlighted particularly in the locked doors scene of wondrous ‘no’s that produced giggles across the audience, the collection of puppets filling the stage in a variety of levels and eye catching colour and confident voice, and throughout the organised chaos within the croquet game perfected with flamingo mallets and hedgehog balls.
This production is clever. Alice shrinks in front of your eyes as the drink me bottle grows larger with the use of different sized props floating around her in the shadows. The mushrooms turn into tea party tables, seats and rises. Then there is the added use of word puns that add some fun, a tortoise being the one that ‘taught us’ for example! Everything has been well thought out, including the detail in the puppets such as the dodo’s monocle and the transformation of the caterpillar.
Alice is portrayed with strength in her character. She is highly curious as to be expected, with a clear voice and strong clarity in her speech. She has punch, and ventures through her story holding herself with poise whilst meeting some highly unusual creatures. Stand outs here include the Dodo Bird, Tweedles, March Hare and the Queen of Hearts.
You never know what you are going to get when you venture into a Wonderland, and the team involved in putting on Alice In Wonderland Live has definitely dedicated themselves to creativity. Highlights of the show include the intricate puppetry, the rap that thoroughly enthused the audience during the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the giant ominous cards and the noticeable footwork where Tweedle Dum never stood still. What energy the cast had!
A fun night for families, this production tells this joyful adventure in a way that will spark imagination in all.