…said Alice, very much confused, “I don’t think —“
“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.
– Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The National Ballet of Canada’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was imaginative, colourful, whimsical – fancied – breath-taking! Wonderland was depicted in a way I have never seen or imagined before.
I have been exposed to every form of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I read the original story by Lewis Carrol – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass – last summer, I have watched the Walt Disney version numerous times since childhood (it is my favourite Disney cartoon), and saw Tim Burton’s darker version of Alice in Wonderland. After watching Tim Burton’s depiction I thought I had seen every adaptation imaginable. I was wrong.
The most spectacular thing about all these different adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s story is that the essence of each character remains unaltered. They are presented in many different ways – for example the Mad Hatter evolved from a drawing by Mr. Tenniel, to a Disney cartoon, and was further enhanced by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s film. The characters are honest, and soulful. It is interesting to compare the Disney version to Tim Burton’s film and lastly with the Ballet. The Disney picture and the ballet is based on Carroll’s first story, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” where as Tim Burton’s fantastical adventure is more similar to Carroll’s second part, “Through the Looking Glass”. My only criticism of the ballet version was that they were missing Tweedledee and Tweedledum. I love the banter, confusion and comic relief their arguments create.
During the ballet’s intermission the March Hare played by Jonathan Renna came out for photographs, autographs, and a chat. His makeup was incredible, and he could barely speak with his fake teeth protruding out of his mouth. The set, costume, and properties design was done by Bob Crowley. The set was remarkable for a live production, and I couldn’t help but gasp once the house of cards, (where Alice is on trial in the Queen of Hearts Courtroom – if you know the story) came tumbling down. On each side of the stage and at the back there were massive cards structured in the shape of a pyramid that reached from the floor to the ceiling of the stage. After having seen the March Hare Christina and I wished our seats had been closer to the stage so we could have seen the details of the other costumes.
The talent of all the National Ballet of Canada dancers allows you to transcend into the story without the help of words; but rather through beautiful movements and music. I regret not stopping to buy the soundtrack and am hoping that like Joby Talbot’s other arrangements the soundtrack to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will pop up on iTunes in the near future. The musical themes for each individual character were well matched and truly inspired. They made the characters movements come to life beyond the physicality of the stage. The Cheshire Cat was played by a number of dances who each held up a piece of Cheshire’s body, and so Cheshire became able to “disappear” becoming invisible before your eyes. I was lost in the entire atmosphere from the set design, to the costumes, and the magical orchestra.
The venue – Four Seasons Centre For The Performing Arts – was beautiful. The architecture of the building is an open-concept with windows for walls, and light-reddish in colour wooden stairs. The inside of the theatre was magnificent, and a little intimidating because we were high up and facing a downward slope.
Ironically, I attended the ballet with Christina who I convinced a couple of years ago to be Alice in Wonderland characters for Halloween. She was the Red Queen, and I of course was the Hatter. We made the costumes ourselves, and I must say they were pretty impressive. It only took us about two full days to figure it out, design, and bring them to life. I have had this obsession with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a little while now as you can tell.
I cannot express how touched I was by this performance and how spectacular it was. This story is one of fantasy, and an adventure that is encompassed by an other worldliness. Wonderland is a place that you can’t help but fall in love with. Nothing could have stopped me from attending this ballet. Unfortunately, I attended the last performance; but if The National Ballet of Canada were to produce Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again I recommend it for anyone who has an imagination or is fascinated by Lewis Carroll’s fiction.
“We’re all mad here”
– Cheshire Cat from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland