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Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at State Theatre Melbourne

By Jenna Schroder

The story of the girl who fell down the rabbit hole has been a world-wide sensation for decades and is the subject of countless adaptations on stage and screen.

The Australian Ballet brings one such adaptation to Melbourne’s Art Centre with Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This production is fresh and fast paced. It enables the backstage team to show off their production chops and provides the cast with choreography that demands excellence in characterisation. The company more than delivers on both counts.

The production is a feast for the eyes and is sprinkled with enchanting tricks and gags - all lapped up by the audience. The use of multimedia production and puppetry is innovative and fosters an accessible entry into ballet’s form of storytelling. The production team have thoughtfully utilised these tools, particularly multimedia production, to seamlessly transition between sets - of which there are many.

Despite its high demands, this production doesn’t take itself too seriously and the cast embrace their cooky characters with aplomb. Adam Bull presents a neurotic White Rabbit with many anxious ticks, Valerie Tereshchenko is a terrifying yet comical Queen of Hearts and David McAllister is as electric as ever on stage, performing as The Duchess.

The third act’s hilarious parody of The Sleeping Beauty’s Rose Adagio is a showstopper of the night with its merging of slapstick and classical technique. The Corps de Ballet’s card routine was also quite unique to the production, teaming innovative costuming with dynamic movement to create a sense of overwhelming agitation.

The score by Joby Talbot fails to match the wonderment that occurs on stage. The sound is cinematic and, without dialogue, can feel hollow and directionless at times, dragging the production’s pacing.

But this is no huge travesty as it is Ako Kondo, performing Alice, that is the glue of the production. She drives the narrative forward and provides its emotional core alongside Ty King-Wall as The Knave of Hearts (or Jack). It is no surprise this role landed her the Helpmann Award for best Female Dancer in a Ballet, Dance or Physical Theatre Production. Her Alice is multi-dimensional; joyous; naive; frustrated; loving. What is most impressive is Kondo’s ability to match this emotional characterisation with her physical performance. Every gesture is deeply imbued with the frantic, excited energy of a child. Except, that is, in the many pas de deux between her and King-Wall. These are more romantic in tone and Kondo gracefully melts into long extensions and winds around King-Wall with ease. Giving so much to the role, the audience is with Kondo every step of the way through her fantastical journey as Alice.

Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gives every facet of the production, from the set to the cast, an opportunity to shine. Grabbing these opportunities with both hands, the team at The Australian Ballet provide a night of high class, accessible, entertainment.

Photo Credit: Jeff Busby

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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