‘Wondered’ was juxtaposed.
Returning to the stage as a part of Anywhere Festival 2019, ‘Wondered’ continues its extensive production season. Having previously been performed in various theatre festivals, ‘Wondered’ has truly found its home in The Sideshow, an apt name to say the least.
This piece tells the story of Alice post-Wonderland, and how her continued affiliation with the place has affected not only herself but the other residents. Filled with dark twists and subtle nods to the famous characters, ‘Wondered’ both stays true to the original tale and completely flips it on its head. It definitely has to be seen to be believed, or disbelieved, that’s for you to decide.
Every aspect of the production works like a meticulous ticking fob watch, perhaps one carried by a white rabbit, keeping the production moving smoothly forward. The key cog in this watch is the brilliant text, written by Elodie Boal. The script succeeds at being both witty, intelligent and cohesive; yet simple and completely scattered. Boal perfectly captures the duplicity of the human psyche within her script – the logical voice versus the creative.
This logic vs creative motif is also emulated in the set. The first thing one notices is the table cloth covering the table, with one half covered in mathematical symbols and equations, the other covered in spatters of multi-coloured paint. Covering every inch of the tablecloth, including the bits pooling on the ground, various paraphernalia from the traditional story, such as a flamingo, a deck of cards, roses, toadstools and even a caterpillar are placed. The set is truly an inspired way to instantly set the tone for the audience as they enter, preparing them once again for the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland.
Another duality this production explores is the notion of reality vs fantasy. The piece flips between realism (reality) and surrealism (fantasy), with moments where the other characters slump while the Hatter spouts his stream of consciousness, contrasted with normal (or as normal as one can be in Wonderland) conversations between the various characters. The two converse styles have once again been brilliantly constructed by Boal, who is also the director of the piece, to keep the audience in the confusing, polarising world of Wonderland.
The costumes for each character are another way Boal has given a subtle nod to the original text, as well as playing into the dichotomies of the piece. Each character lightly imitates their traditional counterpart yet with some darker tones mixed in.
Though most characters were obvious at first glance, Ches’ costume (the Cheshire cat) was perhaps a touch too March Hare, to begin with. Though the darker coloured “fur” could have been playing into the darker tones of the piece, it took the audience a few lines to realise who the character was supposed to be.
Lindi Milbourne, the actress behind Ches, instantly swats this confusion away through her phenomenal characterisation of the cat. Without being too over the top, she masterfully brings to the fore the main identifying qualities of the Cheshire cat. She sits the entire production in a relaxed position, and every movement contains the grace of a feline. Even her very voice seemed to ooze charm and superiority, and her strength and logic against the sometimes tyrannical Mad Hatter is a great anchor for the piece.
As well as being the brilliant brain behind the writing and directing of this production, Elodie Boal also plays the saccharine, yet strong Alice. A stand out in this piece, Boal brings such beautiful, heartbreaking realism to an unrealistic character and scenario. The audience is instantly drawn to Alice from the moment she enters, exuding so much sweetness one wouldn’t require any sugar in their tea.
Bringing probably the biggest, and this is no comment on their appetites, serving of surrealism in the piece are Gary Farmer-Trickett as Dee and Trent Sellars as Dum. The Tweedles are living not only in the world of Wonderland but in their own worlds within that. Farmer-Trickett and Sellars work seamlessly together, with such strong rapport that the audience almost feels left out of their games. Different energies, yet the same, these two truly brought the Tweedles to life.
Reagan Warner as Hatter is dark and twisted, yet somehow endearing. Far, far away from any previous ideas one might have had of the Hatter, Warner takes ‘mad’ down the rabbit hole to a whole new level. Truly the centrepiece of this production, Warner balances on the line between each opposing force as perfectly as he balances on a toadstool. His switches from the merry, cheerful Hatter we all know and love, to the sick, brooding Hatter that he and Boal have constructed are as smooth yet unpredictable as the wind changing direction.
Every aspect of ‘Wondered’ works to tell a tale in a familiar world we all know and love, yet every aspect also works to subvert our every expectation.
‘Wondered’ performs at The Sideshow (349 Montague Road, West End) until Friday, 17 May 2019. For tickets and more information visit https://anywhere.is/listings/wondered/.
Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show also work for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.