Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
Directed by Rufus Norris
Set Designed by Rae Smith
Costumes Designed by Katrina Lindsey
Projections by 59 Productions
Obviously this production was based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It has been quite cleverly adapted into a musical in which Wonderland is a video game. Ally, the black, female, teenaged heroine, is the child of recently divorced parents who has had to move with her mom to a new flat, in a new neighborhood, go to a new school, and make new friends, and it's not going well. She misses her dad, who has an online gambling addiction and lost all the family's money. Ally is being bullied at school, and doesn't want to leave her room or talk to her mum about her problems. She wants to be anyone other than herself. Her phone is her only friend. She searches the internet for "be someone else" and finds Wonder.land where there are no rules other than "No Malice" toward yourself or anyone else. She creates her avatar Alice to be completely different--a white girl with blonde hair--who's everything she's not: smart, pretty, thin, and brave. She plays in Quest Mode and encounters others' avatars that she befriends: Dee and Dum, Humpty, Mock Turtle, Dodo, Caterpillar, and Mouse, each person having his/her own set of problems with their parents. The gang discovers each other's weaknesses and insecurities and accept each other regardless of their lack of self esteem. They have leveled up and go on to the garden. Ally's teacher takes up Ally's phone because she's playing Wonder.land in class. Ally doesn't lock her screen, and Mrs. Manxsome starts playing as Alice. She changes Alices' hair and clothes (to red), buys in-game accessories, and proceeds to conquer the online world as The Red Queen. Ally discovers Mrs. Manxsome has her phone and sneaks into the school to try and steal it back. Meanwhile, Red Alice alienates all her friends, and starts beheading them. Alice is going to be deleted from the game for breaking the one rule: No Malice. Ally pleads with the game to save her avatar Alice, since it wasn't her fault, to no avail. Alice apologizes to her friends before she disappears. Ally learns to be happy in the real world with her family and spends less time online.
Photo Credit: Brinkoff and Mogenburg, National Theatre
The set was amazing. The National stage has a revolve but it wasn't utilized. Instead, all the set pieces and furniture were on wheels and either rolled by remote control or by actors wheeling things around. Most of the set was done by projections, which is getting more and more popular these days. It worked equally well for the video game animations as it did for the backgrounds of the real world. The floor is painted with a Cheshire Cat image that gives a spirally, off kilter effect to all the scenes. These photos are of the "real world" of Ally's new neighborhood, flat, and school. All of the actual set pieces were painted in grayscale, iwith the only color being in the costumes and the projections of Wonder.land. As the show goes on the colors and characters of Wonder.land invade the grey of the real world more and more. The whole video game aesthetic was heightened with the sound and lights making all the familiar beeps and boops and bings with the lights adding to the pixelated quality of things on the screen.
This is the sequence of Ally making her avatar, Alice, which she wants to be completely different from herself. The whole time, the narrator's chair is running around Ally's bed like it's a remote controlled car, doing complicated circles and spins.
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff and Mogenburg, National Theatre
Katrina Lindsay's costume design sketches
As I said before, all the real world costumes are in greyscale. Ally and her friends were black and white school uniforms with exaggerated stripes and piping accenting the collar and lapels. Alice's costume is quite ingenious. Her skirt is an enlarged Elizabethan ruff, which gives it a tutu like effect. She's wearing ruffled lacy bloomers underneath, and the blue bodice is cut like a Tudor bodice worn over a chemise with puffed sleeves. In an interview with Vogue, designer Katrina Lindsay points out the English fashion designers whose collections inspired her design of the costumes--Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, Burberry Prorsum, and Christopher Raeburn. When Alice becomes the Red Queen, she gets the same costume, just in red leather. The Caterpillar is played by one actor and six chorus members, all of whom are individually costumed in a large oval shape to represent each segment of the caterpillar body, so each segment can spin and dance independently of each other. Dee and Dum are also in an overlarge dryer hose like silhouette using black and gold in opposite locations. Alice's teacher, Mrs. Manxsome, looks a lot like Cruella DeVille in her black and white houndstooth suit, that later on opens to reveal red lining and a red dress underneath. The Mock Turtle was so unhappy with her avatar, that she "trashed" it and appears wearing the trash can a la Oscar the Grouch. The Doormouse is giant and flat in a sad Spongebob Squarepants way. Humpty is in schoolboy clothes with shorts and long socks holding a giant white balloon that represents her head. The White Rabbit is in all white with giant cylindrical ears (that look more like tampons than ears honestly) and a fencing mask type helmet for a face. He wears black and white two tone oxfords and jodpur inspired pants to create the bunny haunches and a tiny Elizabethan ruff for a collar.
My overall impression is, Wow look at all that awesome tech and design! And then, I didn't really like any of the music. Meh. Would I watch it again? Probably not. I'd rather just look at photos. I already live in a house where there are video games going all the time and I'm just not into the whole scene. It's a great adaptation and a great message and would certainly be more meaningful to kids who do stay online all the time to escape the real world, but to this Gen Xer, it's just too much sensory overload.
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