This Monday Eric, Ingrid and I saw Alice in Wonderland, a ballet at Kungliga Operan.
This ballet was originally created for and by the Royal Opera House in London and has now been exported wholesale to Stockholm, with the original choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, scenography, and everything else.
The performance was spectacular and wonderfully crazy, quite befitting Alice’s crazy adventures.
The costumes and scenography were fanciful and colourful, yet also stylish. I loved the ingeniously designed Cheshire cat – a giant cat of disconnected parts moved around by invisible dancers in black costumes. The fabulously choleric and bloodthirsty, blood-red queen was also memorable.
Alice herself was almost pale in comparison to the rest of the characters. But so she is in the book: she is an observer, pulled in to the craziness against her own will, rather than participating whole-heartedly.
I was a bit sceptical initially to the idea of making a ballet of Alice in Wonderland. So much of the book is about word-play and nonsensical use of language – how can you possibly translate that into dance? Surprisingly well, for the most part. A tap-dancing Mad Hatter in the middle of a ballet was nonsensical enough; a whirling and almost overwhelming dance of flowers was another.
The decorations of course played a major role in making the book’s crazy dream world real. The Cheshire cat was one clever solution; using projected video sequences for Alice’s falling through the tunnel and for her growing and shrinking was another.
I am no connaisseur of classical music so I cannot say much about the score, other than that I liked it, and that it fit the ballet perfectly.
It was a long time since I read the actual book and my recall of the plot is mostly based on the Disney version, of which I feel rather ashamed. I had no recollection of the scenes from the book that didn’t make it into the movie – the one with the Duchess and the Cook and the Pig Baby for example, which was wonderfully over-the-top and grotesque on scene.
I had also forgotten that the trial in the end of the story is about a case of stolen jam tarts. In this ballet version the plot line of a Knave of Hearts stealing jam tarts is extended into the real world at the very beginning of the story, before Alice goes down the rabbit hole. A gardener’s boy is accused of stealing a jam tart (while in fact it was given to him by Alice). And to complicate things further, Alice is in love with that boy, so we get a whole extra plot thread of young love. Rather unnecessary in my opinion, because it really doesn’t contribute to the larger picture, other than giving the two a chance to perform some quite romantic but boring but love duets.
But that’s a minor quibble; overall it was a wonderful performance that I really enjoyed.