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Alice in Wonderland


Queensland Ballet


Stephanie Burridge






Victoria Theatre



Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax

The Queensland Ballet production of Alice in Wonderland - based on the Lewis Carroll tales Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass - has many of the wacky characters that readers know so well. While other productions reflect a darker side of these stories, possibly derived from Carroll's opium-induced fantasies, artistic director François Klaus' version envisions the narrative as a child's dream and imaginings.

The audience, featuring many young Alice lookalikes, followed Alice on her adventures down the rabbit hole to the centre of the earth. She encountered the White Rabbit on a skateboard, a bunch of bossy flowers, the Mad Hatter and, of course, the Queen of Hearts. The French-born Klaus brought considerable wit and humour to this production, as well as a good dose of antipodean references, particularly by including a rugby match for the Queen and her pack of cards.

Another unmistakably Australian feature of this show is the openness and energy that the talented cast gives to this piece of children's theatre. They dance superbly in their brief solos and capture the essence of their characters with conviction. Equally at home on pointe or in sneakers, doing a pas de deux or a show-stopping jazz number, the dancers never flag in their enthusiasm and engagement with the audience. This is no mean feat for a classical dance company that is used to a more conventional repertoire. Much of its success can be attributed to Klaus, who has led and choreographed for the company since 1998.

He interpreted the story through the eyes of a child and gave the young ballet audience someone to identify with. All credit goes to 12-year-old Katie Conway in the title role, who never lost focus despite having to dance in a range of styles and remained a sunny little optimist throughout. As Alice encountered many new friends on her journey, she gave a big smile, a huge wave and a respectful curtsey before joining in the fun.

The Mad Hatter, played by Zachary Chant, shared the stage with Alice for most of the production. In green velvet tails and striped tights, he danced well and built great rapport with young Alice and the audience. Other strong moments were the dance of the flowers that involved some very interesting jazz movements created by using their pointe shoes in new ways. The White Rabbit, danced by Amelia Waller, held the production together as she guided Alice on her journey. Whether on her skateboard, leaping though the air or running quickly on the spot, she was an integral part of the action. The second half introduced the twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee, along with a dance for some oysters, the walrus and a stunning duet for a lion and a unicorn. Though this created opportunities for virtuoso dancing, the addition of these characters made the production a little too long.

Each character emerged through choreography, capturing the eccentricities of each role rather than relying on facial expressions or small gestures - this made the performance work for both the dancers and the audience. The cast also had to carry a few lines from the original text. "Off with their heads!" shouted the Red Queen a couple of times. Unfortunately, the dancers couldn't make their lines match the quality or energy of the movement.

Great costumes and some surreal set pieces supported the choreography. The music was a bit of a mixed bag with some selections working better than others; for instance, Khachaturian's Sabre Dance was great for the rugby match. On the whole, Alice in Wonderland was a great addition to the line-up of school holiday entertainment for Singaporean children and a marvellous introduction to the possibilities of classical ballet.

"A great addition to the line-up of school holiday entertainment for Singaporean children and a marvellous introduction to the possibilities of classical ballet"

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.