A trip down the rabbit hole, and you’re in the Neil Eckersley production Wonderland. A modern, musical take on the Lewis Carrol classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it’s quite unlike any other Alice you’ve seen before – curiouser and curiouser…
A modern-day, single mum Alice follows her daughter Ellie into Wonderland, alongside unremarkable boy-next-door Jack. Alice has just had ‘the worst day of her life’ and no longer wants to live in the real world. Luckily for her, the real world is the last place she’s headed.
When she arrives in Wonderland, it’s in a permanent state of tea time, and the Queen of Hearts is on a bloodthirsty mission to chop off a considerable number of heads.
A whole host of musical numbers has the audience itching to sing along, as scenes from the famous story are given a new twist. An array of impressive set pieces adds to the madness of Wonderland, and makes everything feel a little bit eerie.
A diverse and talented cast really adds the sparkle to this show, and everyone brings an outstanding performance. Rachael Wooding of Britain’s Got Talent fame and Wicked original Kerry Ellis take the role of Alice, interchanging depending on the venue. The Mayflower was graced with Rachael Wooding’s presence, and she brought everything to the performance.
Natalie McQueen is outstanding as the Mad Hatter. Flipping from a charming eccentric to a fearsome dictator, her presence, voice and timing has every eye on her. Her performance adds something really memorable to the whole show, and she makes the character her own. She makes the stage her own too. Another great performance comes from Kayi Ushe as the famously chilled and wise caterpillar, with a host of legs played by female dancers.
The performances, the staging, and the music is terrific. The one and only thing lacking is a modern moral compass to sit better within the contemporary tale – and herein lie a few spoilers. Despite signs the story might go a different way, it’s all wrapped up with a nuclear family being hailed as the perfect outcome. On top of that, the Mad Hatter’s badass new attitude is undermined with her constant talk about how she looks now that she has busty new clothes.
In all, it’s a great show. It could just do with a feminist going through the book with a fine tooth comb.
Words by Katie Dancey