About Time You Saw: Wonder.landBy Hayley Thompson
Curious and Curiouser we are when it comes to the worlds within our phones. Wonder.land – the new musical based on Lewis Carroll’s twisted world – features music from Blur’s Damon Albarn and is masterfully directed by Rufus Norris.
Exploring how the digital world can turn you into anything or anyone, Wonder.land provides the perfect escape from bullies, insecurities, guilt and yourself. Aly (Lois Chimimba), has no one to talk to, her parents are splitting up and she’s moved to a new school. But she always finds comfort in the ever-enticing rabbit hole; her mobile phone. In a dynamic performance, Chimimba, playing a character half her age (12-year-old Aly), brings to the stage all the gumption required for a young girl, living in the muddle of a modern city. Through the story of Wonder.land Aly must come to terms with life, her disjointed family, growing up and growing into who she is.
Once she’s downloaded the game Aly’s on a quest to… well, she’s not quite sure yet, but then maybe that’s the point? Just like Alice (in Wonderland), Aly’s about to follow the White Rabbit into a topsy-turvy world, where no one gives her a straight answer, but where she’ll learn to say exactly what she feels. This exciting musical with captivating design by Rae Smith, goes beyond the warped and sometimes alarming world of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Dramatist, Moira Buffini, does a wonderful job of giving us a relatable story, allowing our self-reliant heroine, to battle her way through to self-discovery.
Be mesmerised by Wonder.land’s use of digital animation and ability to blur stage and screen, sucking you inside www.wonder.land. Director Rufus Norris never fails to maintain the magic through his direction always finding the balance between the recognisable, mundanities of the ‘real’ world and, the addictive online fantasy.
Perhaps the largest applause of the night belonged to fearlessly funny Ms Manxome (Anna Francolini) Aly’s head teacher. Queen of the school, always right but not always good, Francolini’s performance is brilliant and played out with equal parts evil and hilarity. Tying proceedings together is the fabulously pompous MC/Cheshire Cat (Hal Fowler) who majestically keeps the piece spinning, along with the world of Wonder.land.
It’s very rare to come across a musical so dynamic and visually stunning as Wonder.land, yet still true to its origins. A fun tribute rather than an Alice remake, there are many reasons to follow the White Rabbit down to the National Theatre and into the Olivier.