BWW Review: ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDER GROUND, Royal Opera House
Across 55 frantic minutes, Antony McDonald takes us down the rabbit hole and through the mirror, as Alice rolls with the punches and ultimately triumphs after a series of threatening encounters, games and trippy trips. It's all so over the top that some people will harrumph, but then you think of the news and, well, ...
The visuals (McDonald also takes the designer credit) are astonishing, the ensemble cast going through the familiar characters: we get queens and knaves, hares and rabbits, babies and soldiers. There's a pantomimeish hyperreality to this dream / nightmare realm, but it never quite reaches parody, though it comes perilously close. You can see a little Rackham, a little Miyazaki, of course a little Tenniel, but wherever the eye goes, there's a delight in store.
And there's the music. Because with passages of silence, dance and spoken word, one sometimes forgets that we're watching an opera - but never quite.
The operatic is always in the aesthetic, not least as a result of Claudia Boyle's tour-de-force opening scene, falling, falling, falling while Alice's voice climbs, climbs, climbs to those ridiculous high Cs. Composer, Gerald Barry, isn't afraid of demanding plenty from his singers and he gets plenty back.
Barry, also the librettist, tells much of his story through the music, conductor, Thomas Adès, working strings and brass to conjure the crazy, counterintuitive challenges Alice must meet. If you can't whistle the tunes, you can wallow in the dissonance, in the changes of tempo, in the musical joy as Alice, getting by with a little help from her friends, pulls through.
I've a feeling an hour in this world is just enough - for some, I suspect five minutes may be too long - but this bold, accessible and entertaining production will delight anyone who heeds the call to follow the White Rabbit.
Photo Clive Barda