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Review Round-Ups

Critics enter Damon Albarn's wonder.land

The production opened at the Manchester Palace Theatre last week

Lois Chimimba (Aly) and the cast of wonder.land
© Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage


"The lighting and sound Paule Constable and Paul Arditti create, with the projections, a whirling vortex of coloured vegetation, a sci-fi paradise of exotic colour and magenta-tinged night-time"

"You couldn't imagine a musical more tailored to contemporary consumption than the tragic consequences of trying to recover your smart phone."

"At the moment, the first act is too long and the second, which really starts to cohere into something, too short. But so many good ingredients are in place, not least Tom Deering's musical direction, Katrina Lindsay's amazing costumes and the witty orchestrations of David Shrubsole, showing off Albarn's music in the best possible light."

Kitty Empire, Guardian


"there is perhaps a little more bewilderment to this occasionally dazzling, often garbled, musical production (...) than the concept warrants"

"The orchestrations tend towards the functional and austere"

"This game-ified wonder.land (pronounced wonder-dot-land) is a visual triumph, spectacular on a giant screen at the rear of the stage, while flesh and blood characters move about in the grim foreground of meatspace, rendered in ugly monochrome."

Paul Vallely, Independent


"Damon Albarn set high expectations for his new musical Wonder.land. Perhaps too high."

"Rae Smith's spectacular but subtle sets are the real star of this show"

"The direction, by Rufus Norris, the National's new artistic director, is slick, imaginative and pacey. He draws strong performances from Lois Chimimba as the frustrated teenager Aly, from Anna Francolini as her repressed Red Queen headteacher and Sam Archer and Sam Mackay as an inventively-choreographed Tweedle Dum and Dee"

Dominic Maxwell, The Times


"Like a lavishly staged, beautifully played first draft, it's a show whose million bright ideas need a more singular vision to bind them"

"Graphics swirl on the giant screen that backs Rae Smith's spectacular set, costumed characters bounce around downstage, it's all a bit of a headache."

"Albarn's score is disappointing: electro when online, acoustic offline, rarely coalescing into a full-on song until the story gets to what it's really interested in, which is the restoring of the fractured family"

"Norris's staging coups keep coming, the cast acts and sings with skill and heart"

Mark Shenton, The Stage


"Aly is played with a tender vulnerability by Lois Chimimba, and Golda Roshuevel and Paul Hilton as her parents register their own private and public griefs powerfully"

"It is here Rufus Norris' production comes fully and imaginatively alive, with brilliantly vivid projections (courtesy of 59 Productions) and Katrina Lindsay's stunningly costumed creatures"

"There are still tweaks and cuts to be made to clarify and shape it"

wonder.land runs at the Palace Theatre Manchester until 12 July and at the Olivier, National Theatre from 27 November.