As the audience sit down, a video of a digital clock is projected on to the stage curtain. The numbers on this clock are comprised of people; legs and arms at right angles forming a perfect ‘19:30’. This proved to be a sign of what was to come – video technology and brilliant physical theatre, presenting something we all know in a radical and beautiful new way.
ALiCE, a contemporary dance adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, is a vibrant and fresh rendition of the classic story. The narrative follows Alice on a psychedelic journey to Wonderland on which she is confronted by her own identity in a world that warps both visually on stage for the audience and emotionally for the character. Gender, power, and love are interrogated throughout, particularly in a short sequence dealing with domestic violence. Through movement a nuanced and complex depiction of relationships is achieved, discussing the balance and intrinsic link between sex and violence, pleasure and pain.
Multiple different styles of dance are implemented throughout, married with beautiful sound design by Jasmin Vardimon and Joel Cahen. All of them fit the atmosphere of their moments perfectly. Vardimon’s choreography is genius. Innovative and original movement is constant, yet all of the numbers feel necessary to the story; not simply embellishment for the sake of beauty. The dancers perform with crystal clear intention and absolute integrity. The entire company shows acrobatic and gravity defying power alongside beautifully refined subtlety. The unison in this piece is incomparable, and to be honest a privilege to witness.
The set by Guy Bar-Amotz and Vardimon is dynamic and imposing. A gigantic book is turned on stage by our spirit guide, a vaping caterpillar, and Alice journeys through the seemingly never-ending pages. This version really gives us her perspective in a modern context: someone lost in her own ‘story’. The production is laden with imagery, some abstract and some concrete, but always unique, intelligible, and thought provoking. The format of a book on stage permits the action to change in dimension and perspective, allowing the audience into Alice’s mind as well as presenting quite flat imagery for communicating wider narrative.
This piece is true dance theatre. It straddles both forms but loses nothing from either. It is rare that dance, being rehearsed to the fraction of a second, can feel as embodied and alive as it does in this performance. And it is even rarer for a piece with no words to have as strong a story as this. It is a masterclass of acting and dance. I rarely forget I’m in a theatre but ALiCE is totally mesmerising and completely transported me into the world of the piece. This is a beautiful piece of dramatic art that revels in its inherent absurdity.
Concept, Direction & Choreography by: Jasmin Vardimon MBE
Created with & Performed by: Donny Beau Ferris, Sabrina Gargano, Evie Hart, David Lloyd, Sean Moss, Hobie Schouppe, Juliette Tellier
Set Design by: Guy Bar-Amotz & Jasmin Vardimon
Lighting & Projection Design by: Andrew Crofts
Costume Design by: Elisabeth Sur & Dorota Wieckowska
Sound Design by: Jasmin Vardimon & Joel Cahen
ALiCE played at Sadler’s Wells as part of a national tour. It next plays DanceEast in Ipswich 16 – 18 December. More information here.