Review/Dance

Whimsical and wonderful: an Alice for all ages

Junior reviews: West Australian Ballet, Alice (in wonderland) ·
His Majesty’s Theatre ·
Reviews by Bethany Stopher (13) and Saskia Haluszkiewicz, aged 9 ·

Opening night, Thursday 21 November
Review by Bethany Stopher
Alice (in wonderland), performed by the West Australian Ballet, is a creative, vibrant ballet, full to the brim with humour and imagination. It is thoroughly enjoyable and perfect for a young audience.
The choreography is not strictly ballet; some of its features are neoclassical or contemporary. This keeps it fresh and different. The sequences are playful and fun, perfectly enhancing the characters from Lewis Carroll’s novel. It also has the hint of silliness and is definitely humorous in places, from the Cheshire cat, to the seductive red roses. The dancers use their voices, which is unusual for a ballet, but very effective in this case. Septime Webre has done an excellent job.
The scenery is outstanding. The plain white room and chair at the start of the show, give little clue of the imaginative props and scenery that are to come. Set designer James Kronzer has certainly gone above and beyond, making every scene as picturesque as possible. Suspension wires are used multiple times, in jaw dropping ways, during the performance. One of the highlights of this, for me, was when Alice “grew” after sampling the bottle labelled “drink me.” It looked so effective, especially as the adult “doors” are replaced by child guests to show how giant Alice is in comparison.
The scenery is also very portable and this is convenient, as there are many different settings, which have to be changed quickly.  There is even a touch of puppetry (artistically created by Eric Van Wyk), including a mini Alice, which is spun round to give the impression of falling, and a humongous Jabberwock puppet, which is controlled by many of the dancers. The scenery and effects are magical.
On opening night all the dancers were immaculate. Chihiro Nomura (Alice) stole the show for me. Apart from her flawless technique, she had a childlike quality and an abundance of expression, perfect for the role. I also admired the bird partnership of the dodo (Oscar Valdes) and the eaglet (Dayana Hardy Acuna). Oscar had such control in his pirouettes and elevation in his jumps. Dayana had a beautiful expression – you could see the joy that she has from dancing. Glenda Garcia Gomez (The Queen of Hearts) played the dominant and vicious queen with attitude and a dramatic snarl on her face. The child stars were given a large presence on stage, performed well and were adorable; the audience went “aww” every time they entered the stage. One thing that I found interesting is that the characters mirror Alice’s family in the real world. This gave me a deeper understanding of the story that was unfolding.
All the costumes are perfect for Wonderland; bright, colourful and quirky. I loved the White Rabbit’s costume, as he wore huge fluffy ears and a waistcoat with clocks on it. The children’s costumes are really fluffy and cute. The costumes have been designed so exquisitely by Liz Vandal  that all the characters look like they have stepped right out of the book. The costumes are also very clever; when the cards are “painting” the white roses red, the white petals peel off to show crimson ones! However, it appeared as though some of the costumes were uncomfortable to dance in. For example, the flamingo costumes looked spectacular, but it must have been hard to dance as gorgeously as they did with a ginormous flamingo beak on your head! I also found that some of the costumes had a plastic texture. Some of the costumes suited this, but others seemed a bit too shiny.  Overall, though, the costumes are creative and add to the thrill.
Alice (in wonderland) is a must-see. It can be enjoyed by all ages, as it is completely suitable for kids, and their attention will be hooked from the moment the curtain rises until the curtseys. It is the kind of ballet that makes you want to see it again and again. The season ends on December 15, so get your tickets before they sell out!
Friday 22 November
Review by Saskia Haluszkiewicz, aged 9
West Australian Ballet’s production of Alice (in wonderland) is a new version of Lewis Carroll’s famous children’s book, and captures the imagination of people’s minds with colour, dance and comedy.
The costumes (designed by Liz Vandal) are full of colour and life, and beautifully capture the detail and tradition of the period the book was written. Many have described the costumes as a “visual feast”. One part of the ballet has a scene where Alice is walking through a magical forest when she sees a caterpillar on a toadstool smoking a pipe. Through dance we can see that the caterpillar is talking to Alice. Then it shows the natural cycle of a caterpillar by turning into a butterfly. The wings are a majestic blue and are so big, they fill up the entire stage! This is one example of the effort put into making these costumes. Another highlight is when Alice grows so tall, she is nearly touching the top of the proscenium with Alice’s feet dancing at the bottom.
The choreography (Septime Webre) is interesting, exciting and clever. It is a mix of traditional ballet and contemporary movement and even includes a Chinese dragon style puppet of the Jabberwock.
The cast includes students of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and 15 child dancers, along with WAB’s principals, soloists and demi soloists.
The main characters are Alice, The White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Queen and King of Hearts. Other characters are the Fishy Footman, The Tweedle twins (who at one point flew through the air on a tandem bike), the flamingos and the Playing Cards.
Overall, I think this is a wonderful ballet performance for people all ages. It is whimsical, fun and imaginative, showing perfectly the potential of storytelling through the art of dance.
Pictured top: Chihiro Nomura as Alice and Juan Carlos Osma as Lewis Carroll in ‘Alice (in wonderland’). Photo: Scott Dennis.
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Rosalind Appleby

Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is a Perth-based arts journalist, author and speaker. She writes for The Australian newspaper, The Guardian and Opera magazine (London). She was music critic for The West Australian for 14 years (2002-2016). From 2012-2018 she operated the blog Noted, providing insights into the Perth arts scene.

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