The Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is a show of unparallelled brilliance
We knew it was going to be good: central London 2,260-seat auditoriums don’t get sold out in seconds if a show is mediocre. But The Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is of unparallelled brilliance. We cannot remember a ballet so playful, inventive or colourful. Taking Lewis Carroll’s classic British story and bringing it to life through dance is no mean feat, and yet this production made it look so easy – from a multi-part Cheshire cat perfectly operated by a group of ‘invisible’ dancers to an exotic smoking caterpillar whose legs were made up of a troupe of female dancers with sequinned pointe shoes. The ‘eat me/drink me’ scene that alters Alice’s size was cleverly mastered by changing the dimension of the backdrop projection.
Englishness abounded. It started with a scene in an country garden: a tea party, jam tarts, croquet, roses – all motifs that would go with Alice into wonderland, where she follows the White Rabbit.
Once in her extraordinary new world, British woodland animals danced in tartan jackets, the flowers of an English country garden came to life like kaleidoscopic pops of colour, and the Mad Hatter was a tap-dancing punk with pink hair. (Here’s a bit of trivia: the term ‘mad as a hatter’ came from Victorian England, where the chemicals that hatters used in their craft caused them to shake and have hallucinations). Teapots and giant cups, saucers and cakes were constantly revisited.
The regal theme was also an ever-present thread: royal red for the Queen of Hearts and her pack-of-cards army and a giant tumbling axe fell instead of a curtain to mark the second interval, complete with a heart-shaped drop of blood on the blade.
The tea party continued into the intervals where small crustless sandwiches were served in the bar, but with champagne, not tea!
If you’ve never been to the Royal Opera House, it’s worth visiting for the building alone. The auditorium is just magnificent with thick velvet curtains with a fabulously regal ER embroidered on them in gold, and six circles of seats. In the foyer and outside the auditorium itself are exhibits of costumes and miniature stage sets, making it well-worth arriving early and having a proper look around.
The show lived up to all expectations of Englishness eccentricity, allowing us to enjoy one of the best-loved and brilliantly British stories of all time, transformed into dance.