Damon Albarn’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired musical
Blur frontman Damon Albarn reinvents Lewis Caroll’s lysergic tale of Alice in Wonderland, into a visually intoxicating, digital masterpiece in his London debut of ‘wonder.land’
Forget the technicolour slide down the rabbit hole; Albarn’s Wonderland is not underground as Carroll’s original had it, or in the druggy counterculture Jefferson Airplane imagined it on late 60’s track White Rabbit, but a place all complicated teens know well…the online world.
A typical coming-of-age tale, our new “Aly” is struggling with all the pressures of being a teenager: family, school, friends and her own insecurities. Then she discovers ‘wonder.land’ (as in wonder-dot-land) a mysterious online world where she can create a whole new life. A place where she can escape. Alternative identities are played out, the boundaries blurred between online and offline life. The web becomes her looking-glass – but will Aly see who she really is?…
As usual with any reinterpretation of Carroll’s hallucinogenic, opium scented story, it doesn’t much matter. We’ve heard Alice in Wonderland a hundred times before. Probably even attended some hideous themed Madhatter’s tea party or club night … It’s the eccentricities and oddities that make this story such a treasure and what it really is, and Albarn’s reinvention takes those long adored obscurities and ramps up the voltage.
His signature complex (at times slightly manic) soundtrack glitters with analog bleeps, and pulsating bass lines from start to finish. A psychedelic caterpillar smokes a rolled-up white umbrella, a ‘Jeff Koons meets Donnie Darko’ white rabbit skips about the stage, holograms dance, whilst the magnificently devilish Cheshire Cat projects on giant screens, twitching his multi-coloured whiskers and grinning wide with teeth sharp like razors. Spectacular digitals, a hefty tech budget and a master creative team take centre stage over the actual plot, making Damon Albarn’s wonder.land an acid trip you’ll wanna go on and one of the hottest tickets in London theatre.
On Now – 30 April 2016
The National Theatre
Words by Tracy Kawalik
Photos and Video Courtesy of The National Theatre