Anyone remember playing Habbo Hotel? I remember spending hours in my bedroom, creating my avatar named PrincessEmmaChristianGirl99 (don’t ask!). I created the perfect mini me, free from acne, frizzy hair, big teeth and worries. She was also free from anxiety, depression and dyslexia. Habbo Hotel was my virtual Wonderland.
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Jump to 2016, the National Theatre’s wonder.land is the modernised reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This new musical wets the lips for those who like a mixture of live theatre and digital technology. The creativity bursts the traditions of West End musicals and injects some urban grit of a teenager’s identity crisis.
Aly is a typical teen girl, depressed and frustrated with her life. Alice is her online avatar in an online game called wonder.land. Lois Chimimba plays Aly with such fine rebellious and jealous streaks, it seemed to echo many teenaged memories or nightmares. Engaged to her smartphone, her broken family fuels this online addiction and desperation to create a perfect avatar in wonder.land. The temptation to mould Alice (Carly Bawden), Aly’s Avatar, into the total opposite of her creator, reveals her deepest desires “Everyone likes you. You’re not afraid of anything. And you’re beautiful”.
The imaginative use of props glided the characters around the transforming sets. I loved the buggy towing several carts as the makeshift bus. I also enjoyed the out of this world costumes. Alice’s dress and heels were inspired by Lady Gaga and the Caterpiller had a humourous Christmas bauble ensemble.
Throughout the musical, the narrative stayed true to its original text. The humorous avatars which represent the original characters, including Dum and Dee, Mouse and White Rabbit. I heard a few audience members gasp and snigger at the cleverness of it all. Wonder.land had many laugh out loud moments and became a pleasure to watch.
My antenna tuned into a priceless yet brief discussion on dyslexia. Aly defends her naughty phone use, suggesting it’s a “learning aid” as it has “spellcheck and everything”. Ms Manxome (Anna Francolini) responds there was no such thing as dyslexia in “my day. They had a condition called Thick”. Cue rapturous laughter from the general audience and awkward smiles from the dyslexic amongst us. Knowing fellow dyslexic and Blur frontman Damon Albarn was behind this wonder.ful musical, I’m sure there was no malice on the part of the writer. But this was an interesting gauge of the general public’s attitude towards dyslexia. Would laughter have been the appropriate reaction if the skit featured another ‘disability’? Would a more appropriate reaction have been a pantomime hiss?
The second act was a slightly blurry mess. The cyber war between digital versus reality was a desperate pace for closure. Aly fights Ms Manxome for her control over her avatar. Her friend, Luke, and his zombie gang debug Alice. There is a short circuit of tears, but wonder.land seems to have unzipped the moral to the story.
The musical wants you to become the new age and teaches you the meaning of self-love and uncovering your passions, values and beliefs. Although the melodies are slightly unmemorable, the narrative beats a fuzzy heart and releases ‘go see’ fibres, just don’t use your phone or computer to rant and rave… Oh, the irony.
**wonder.land is playing at the National Theatre uni 30 April, 2016**
Emma Kay is a theatre Blogger who study Journalism and Creative Writing at Roehampton University. Being dyslexic, theatre grants her the freedom to watch without the need for words or a loud voice. She is a open individual, who is unashamed of sharing her past struggles and likes to vocalise the message for others. She is also the Menber of the Barbican Centre Young Visual Arts’ Group and shortlisted at UK Blog Awards.
The Codpast is a multimedia production from www.extraordinaire.tv