150 years ago, Lewis Carroll brought us the crazy world of Alice in Wonderland. Still a hugely popular story, the National Theatre is adapting the much-loved classic in a 21st century digital theatre adaptation.
Words: Keziah Leary, Subeditor: Julia Tsilman
Alice in Wonderland is widely considered to be a key part of British heritage. In the 150 years since it was published, it’s been reproduced many times on paper, screen, and stage. The National Theatre is bringing a new twist to the tale with its new show, Wonder.land. We caught up with the production’s stage manager, Shane Thom, to find out what we can expect from this exciting new musical.
When we met up with Shane a couple of weeks ago, the first thing that struck us was how calm he was. In the final week of rehearsals you would have thought he’d be completely stressed or at least looking a little bit anxious. But he wasn’t. Which tells us two things: firstly, that he must do a damn good job of being stage manager. Calm and collected at all times is an absolute necessity for his job title. And secondly, the rehearsals must have been going brilliantly – although he may just have been very good at acting!
Stepping into the rehearsal room we got our first look at what to expect from the show, and boy, did it make us feel excited! Even with the temporary scenery and props, the whole room had a very magical feel to it – from the large city-like grey structures to the giant colourful pair of trousers. Shane assured us that there was plenty more to look forward to: “We watch it everyday at the moment because we’re in rehearsals. As the stage management team we observe everything that goes on and you see the whole show growing and developing. And it absolutely grabs you and takes you with it into the journey.”
Wonder.land is set in the 21st century with a girl called Aly and her adventure to escape reality through the use of the online world. The modern adaptation uses digital technology, music written by a rock legend, and eccentric costumes. A little different to the original storyline, we got Shane to explain to us exactly what the show is about.
So if that hasn’t already whet your appetite, here’s an insight from Shane of the most exciting parts to look out for:
1. Classic Characters… But Not Quite As You Know Them
“There’s characters who you would recognise through Alice in Wonderland. There’s the White Rabbit who she has to follow through the game to be on her quest. There’s characters and references to Alice in Wonderland as we go, and the whole game starts by the White Rabbit jumping through the rabbit hole, and the avatar, Alice, has to follow her. And Alice is the blue dress, blonde hair, big bubbly character. There’s a school teacher, Ms. Manxome, who kind of develops into the Red Queen character.
2. The Alternative Music Score
“It’s got such a great creative team as part of it and the music is by Damon Albarn of Blur as well, so there’s that influence and recognition of family audiences.”
3. The Digital Technology
“We use digital animators. There’s a company called 59 Productions who create all backgrounds of all the worlds. Because we’ve got the garden, of course, of Alice in Wonderland so there’s a big magical garden they [the characters] go to. But they create the grey world landscapes on projection as well. We also have motion capture as well, where Alice and the White Rabbit, we see their figures run around the screen and that was all done on motion capture so we hooked them up on the green screens with the suits and did all their movements so that’s being put into it as well.”
4. The Use Of The Olivier Stage
“Lots of big scenic elements that really use the Olivier to its full advantage… The [digital projection] screen is the height and the width of the Olivier stage so it’s going to be massive in such visual marvellousness.”
5. The Climactic Ending
“There’s a great section which we rehearsed today which is towards the end of the show and it really just sucks you in. There’s so much stuff going on on stage, it’s a huge real visual feast and it builds up to the end of the show which is just going to be brilliant I think. And it really will get the audience enthused and send them out on a high.”
And on a final word from Shane, he explains why you should go and watch the show:
With so much to see in this new production, we absolutely cannot wait to watch it. Wonder.land is about to begin its second week of previews with Press Night on the 10th of December. To get your hands on some tickets, visit the National Theatre website.