Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at Opera Holland Park
There is something distinctly magical about outdoor theatre when the weather is right. Set in a forest glade in the depths of Holland Park, with dappled sunshine intermittently breaking through the trees, Opera Holland Park’s new family production revels in its surroundings. After performing the wildly successful Fantastic Mr Fox for the past three years, the company have chosen to adapt another children’s classic, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Sitting on cushions to protect them from the damp earth, the audience is guided through a series of scenes and locations by a group of rowdy Victorians in period dress. The first scene introduces us to Alice and her family in a pet shop in Grimthorpe, complete with a caged white rabbit. Whilst her brothers (later to morph into Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee) discuss how they would like to eat every animal in sight, the rabbit speaks to Alice, guiding her unbeknownst into Wonderland.
Written by Will Todd and with a libretto by Maggie Gottllieb, whilst the first scene is somewhat drowned out by the accompanying orchestra, from here on in the balance between music and opera singing is perfected, and the two complement each other very well, especially when the acoustics of an outdoor forest setting complete with a strong breeze are taken into account. The set and the costumes are also beautiful with the greyness of the “real” world in sharp contrast to the bright and vivid colours of Wonderland. James Laing’s Cheshire Cat is a particular visual treat with bright blue hair and the widest of smiles.
Indeed, all of the characters (except a slightly lacking March Hare and Mad Hatter) are wonderfully vivid, with just the right balance of oddball mania and friendly charm. Robert Burt’s Red Queen is the undeniable star though, his many references to decapitation and guillotines leaving parents looking mildly worried and children delighted.
The interactive aspect of the opera, which sees the audience literally follow Alice (confidently portrayed by Fflur Wyn) through different locations in Wonderland, brings the world vividly to life and all praise should be given to director Martin Duncan for managing to make such a well-known story seem so fresh and exciting.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is at Opera Holland Park until 3rd August 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.