Thursday, January 05, 2017

I expected great things from Anthony Neilson's Alice in Wonderland at the Lyceum. And I got them and I didn't. 

He has a tough act to follow. Given his penchant for loopyness and plumbing the depths of human darkness and indignity, I was expecting Neilson's Alice to have been given a Beauty Queen of Leenane style overhaul. Or at least a Wonderful World of Dissocia style overhaul.
You see all this zany stuff and then you realise that she's either a patient on a psychiatric ward or else - given that this is a children's show - the victim of some Hunter S Thompson style hallucinogenic drug trip. But the denouement was as Carroll's denouement does. 

You may be forgiven for thinking that I didn't like it, given my words to date. But in truth, as the second act unfurled, I was seduced. The story of Alice is loopy and the play was thus. The cast appeared to be having a ball - Alice aside who seemed to be just the right side of discombobulated. (Jess Peet did a just lovely job.)

It's a marvellous ensemble piece (as only the pretentious would say). There were 9 or maybe 10 in the cast (no, wait, I checked the cast list. They were EIGHT!), lots of doubling and tripling used to excellent effect. The costumes were brilliant.  The set boasted more technical wizardry than I've seen on that stage for a long time. They must have invested a huge amount of love and effort and expertise to (literally) get Alice off the ground. And the story was persuasively engaging. You wanted very much her to unpuzzle her peculiar surroundings - but then felt slightly disappointed when she did.

I didn't like the songs, I'll admit. They felt like they'd been shoved in because a Christmas show needs a song or two. And there was some disagreement in my group about whether or not the Mad Hatter (Tam Dean Burn) was always audible. It would be fair to say that it would probably suit smaller children better than those I was with. 

But if you're after a bundle of colour and chaos (the photos hardly do it justice - it looked glorious) and beautifully nonsensical nonsense, it felt very faithful to both content and intention of the book for which I commend Mr Neilson. For who would dare to overhaul such majestic nonsense when the original words are so smart and funny and thoughtful? He had a tough gig. And he manage to squidgle some politicing into his script. Placards here and there and the odd sly jibe which gave it a little bit more of an edge.
J K Rowling had a much easier ride of it with her Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. She created her story from scratch and oh - how I envy her mind. She tells such a good version of the socially awkward underdog doing good in the end. This version enhanced by all sorts of CGI trickery, a beautifully vintage New York and a budget the Lyceum can only dream of. Unsurprisingly, the film did zany with a little more aplomb than Alice managed. I wept continually for the last quarter of it. But I'd take the theatre over the cinema any day.


Post a Comment

<< Home