Before arriving at the ADC to see this week’s Lateshow Alice, I was sceptical. To capture Carroll’s brilliant madness of Wonderland through what had been touted as ‘the magical medium of circus’ seemed to me an ambitious task. But the excitement inside the auditorium was palpable and the fact that the ADC has a sold out Lateshow is something of a wonder in itself. What we witnessed was a total spectacle.

Every member of the company deserves a mention for their individual talents which contributed to the overriding sense of awe that was created. If I were to list all the magnificent acrobats, gymnasts, actors and dancers that brought director Joanna Vymeris’ vision of wonderland to life, we’d fall down our own metaphorical rabbit hole. In the show individuals were very much given their own chance to shine whether through an individual segment, dance element, flip or trick. In this way perhaps Alice is a misleading title to a show which gives prominence to the wonders of Wonderland rather than its protagonist.

The visuals of the production were equally stunning. The ADC was transformed with a black and white circus top framing the stage in keeping with the overarching monochrome aesthetic. Costumes, especially those which catered for the need for flexibility and yet were still visually striking, were well thought out and a special mention must go to the person who came up with those amazing card-guard pieces. As much as the performers deserve a high level of acclaim so do the set designers, costume designers and makeup artists who put together such an aesthetic; highlights of which were undoubtedly the initial ingenious shadow work and the tea party scene which was a visual feast. 

Vymeris’ characterisation was equally masterful. Now it makes complete sense to me why Carroll’s Cheshire cat should be a trapeze artist and his Mad Hatter should be a magician. The concept of dividing up some of the characters into their acting and acrobatic selves was intriguing and worked better with some pairings than with others. But it did give the chance for every individual to do what they do best; whether that be acting or its circus equivalent.  The levels of talent within the cast are baffling and my companion even noted that his jaw literally dropped in wonder.

My one critique of the production lies in the fact that, despite her undeniable skill at ballet dancing, the structure of the piece left Vinciane Jones as Alice repeatedly gawping at the wonder that surrounded her. There are only so many levels of awe that an actor can pull off before her reaction becomes monotonous; but this is perhaps testament to the talent around her on stage.

There was a distinct sense of professionalism throughout the show so that even when some members of the company did succumb to the pressures of the opening night and a few mistakes were noticeable, they continued on nevertheless, especially when such mistakes are an inevitable part of these spellbinding acts.

The musical accompaniment to the wonder was a veritable mix of genre and style, which usually I would have found jarring and incongruent, but in this context I found beguiling. However it sometimes was a bit too booming that actors’ lines were shouted rather than spoken and the dialogue lost its mystical quality.

All in all, this interpretation of Carroll’s Wonderland was a wonder. Sometimes I believe in six impossible things before breakfast; last night I believed in at least six impossible things during the hour-or-so-long production of Alice.

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