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Alice in Wonderland (tour - Bishop's Stortford, Rhodes Arts Centre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Creating a new ballet based on a well-loved story is never going to be an easy task; there are so many different elements involved. Ballet Theatre UK's director Christopher Moore has chosen Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland for his new touring production aimed at family audiences. It works splendidly, thanks to excellent design (Daniel Hope and Moore himself) and some good performances by its young cast.

Our heroine (Julia Davies) establishes herself as a dreamer with her introductory solo, which then flows seamlessly into a pas de trois with her older sisters and then to the picnic with their patience-playing governess. The choreography is attractive to watch with neat pointe work and some intriguing lifts. Once Alice encounters the White Rabbit (Inês Ferreira) we are firmly in the world of fantasy. There's a clever use of portable doors as Alice manoevres her way into Wonderland.

Vincent Cabot is the most suave of Cowardesque caterpillars and Helena Casado Cortes a Cheshire Cat with very sharp claws. Act Two introduces us to the Mad Hatter's tea party with its perambulating tables (squared-off gingham tutus). Joseph Mackie-Graves was the limber Mad Hatter at the performance I saw, with Natalie Cawte as the tip-toeing Dormouse and Luca Varone as the March Hare.

Once Alice reaches the realm of the icy Queen of Hearts (Jessica Hill) with its scandal-mongering roses, her fledgling romance with David Brewer's Knave of Hearts is imperilled by the luscious tarts that he has fed to her rather than to his Queen and she has to effect his rescue by shattering and scattering the cards of her waking dream. With Simon Paterson's eclectic score derived from some familiar and other less obvious tunes, this is an excellent introduction to classical ballet for young people. What's more, their elders could enjoy its visual wit even more.


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