Review Round-Ups

Critics descend on the National's

Rufus Norris’ production struggles to impress

Ben Hewis, WhatsOnStage


"Damon Albarn and Moira Buffini's "Alice for the online generation", first seen at the Manchester International Festival and now reworked for the National, is so completely absurd it's more cloud cuckoo land than Wonderland."

"Chimimba, Bawden and Francolini put in sterling performances given what they have to work with, and there's a brilliantly comic turn from Hal Fowler as the segway-riding MC."

"The fact that this is Albarn and Buffini's first voyage into musical theatre is glaringly apparent. The dialogue is clunky, the lyrics unmemorable and, whilst Albarn may be a respected pop artist, his skills do not yet extend to writing theatrical music."

Claire Allfree, Daily Telegraph


"Norris directs this show – newly reworked for its London run – with extraordinary visual flair. Rae Smith's set deploys shape-shifting, almost hallucinogenic abstract visuals that beautifully evoke something of the infinite realms of digital reality."

"Albarn's incidental music, much criticised in Manchester, admittedly doesn't make for an obvious musical soundtrack – anyone expecting something of Blur's anthemic pop or the beautiful​,​ infectious oddness of​ his side project​ Gorillaz will be disappointed."

" manages to convey on stage something of the simultaneously colliding and dissolving frontiers between the real world and cyber space in a way contemporary theatre rarely manages."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


"Boasting a score by Damon Albarn, it premiered at the Manchester International Festival five months ago, has since been rejigged, and still feels cluttered and confused."

"Moira Buffini’s script is predictable, preaching the need for self-acceptance, but Albarn’s music is a bigger problem. Though it flirts with Cockney knees-up anthems, plaintive ballads and jarring bleeps, it’s mostly just bland."

"So is this bizarre homage to Lewis Carroll a Christmas turkey? Not quite, but it does feel overstuffed."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"Following a mixed reception for their musical rewrite of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at this summer’s Manchester International Festival, Damon Albarn, Moira Buffini and Rufus Norris seem to have drunk from a potion marked ‘worse’."

"Blur and Gorillaz leader Albarn has written some of the greatest tunes of the last 30 years, but despite a couple of keepers, the deal is substantially wordy, bucolic, piano-y numbers (with lyrics by Buffini) that desperately try and drive on the garbled narrative when something simpler and catchier might have made all the difference."

"Norris, Albarn and Buffini are all great talents, and having seen both incarnations, it’s clear they’ve really toiled over since Manchester. But it just hasn’t worked."

Mark Shenton, The Stage


"I'm afraid that the show itself, with book and lyrics by Moira Buffini to music by Damon Albarn, and co-created by them both with director Rufus Norris, is similarly dressed up with nowhere to go and is never quite sure of the answer about what it is or is trying to be."

"Damon Albarn may be a prolific and respected pop composer, but he knows nothing of landing a song in the theatre."

"Some of the performances survive the mess, with Lois Chimimba showing real vulnerability as Aly and Golda Roshuevel and Paul Hilton touching as her pained, strained parents. Others are constrained by the two-dimensional characters Moira Buffini's script provides." is playing in the Olivier, National Theatre, booking until 30 April 2016.