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Curioser and curioser: Australian Ballet takes on Christopher Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland

11 September 2017 9:26 AM
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The Cheshire Cat is a giant puppet. The Mad Hatter is a mad tap dancer. The rabbit has disappeared into a giant, wobbly jellycake. Alice has a crush on a knave. And all of them can dance very, very well.

Perhaps they're mad, but the Australian Ballet is about to stage the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland. There's an added love story, and British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon​ promises jokes for the adults.

The Olivier Award-winning production premiered in 2011 at London's Royal Ballet and has toured half a dozen countries since.

"This company [The Australian Ballet] has been maybe the least troublesome," says Wheeldon, in Melbourne to put the finishing touches on the show, before jetting off to Tokyo for the National Ballet of Japan production.

"It's a very, very big production to get together and they've [The Australian Ballet] just been really on it."

This is not your regular classical story ballet. Of all the shows he's written, Wheeldon says Alice is "unabashedly a spectacle".

"It's more like a dance entertainment than a ballet – more like a musical without songs," he says. "I wanted it to be really theatrical and to incorporate other forms of theatre and design."

The set design is a stunning feat of technical wizardry – aided by clever use of digital projections – that rivals any blockbuster musical (and betters quite a few).

It's amplified of course by Joby Talbot's original score; a whirlwind of ticking clocks and cacophonous brass.

"Joby Talbot is equally at home writing classical symphonic music as he is writing a film score or something more popular," says Wheeldon. "So it's less like an old-fashioned ballet score and more like a hybrid of an exciting film score within the more traditional structure of a ballet."

That may be fun for audiences but spare a thought for poor Alice: she's on stage for almost the whole three-act performance. Lauren Cuthbertson, who played the original Alice for the Royal Ballet, will perform the role as a guest of The Australian Ballet for two nights only, with company dancers rotating on the other nights.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, September 12 to 30.

Source: theage.com.au

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11 September 2017 9:27 AM

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