The fourth Manchester International Festival starts today, and as always there was something in the programme of events that caught my eye. Earlier in the week I went to one of the preview nights of Wonder.land – the new musical by Damon Albarn, and I was so excited to be one of the first to see this show, which takes the story of Alice in Wonderland (which is 150 years old this year!) and recreates it in the modern digital age.
It’s the story of 12-year-old Alice who is bored and unhappy in the real world, so she joins the online game Wonder.land where she designs her avatar to be everything she wishes she were in real life. The show flips between Alice’s day-to-day life, where everything seems grey and dull, and the vibrant, exciting Wonder.land where she even makes some actual friends!
The way that the familiar story of Alice in Wonderland is recreated is so imaginative, from the idea that cyberspace is the rabbit hole, to the ways in which the recognisable characters make an appearance. There were even some more subtle references in the script, which made me chuckle! Visually it didn’t look anything like I thought it would, but it was very creative and every part of it was interesting to look at!
A musical is all about the music, and in Wonder.land the songs were sort of catchy and enjoyable, with witty lyrics that actually sound like the way people actually speak these days. There are no epic showstopping numbers – it’s not that sort of musical – but I think that’s what makes it feel interesting and up-to-date. Actually it reminded me a bit of Matilda (if you’ve seen that show). It had the same sort of witty British vibe. And actually it was a really funny show altogether – a few of the characters in particular were hilarious! Everyone in the show was fab, but my number one performance of the night had to be Rosalie Craig as the avatar version of Alice. She was so believable as a computer character I ended up forgetting that she was played by a real person!
This was a really interesting show and really something that makes MIFestival 2015 special. It’s showing until 12th July, and then I think it opens in London from November, which is great because it would be a shame if more audiences didn’t get to see it!
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