A contemporary retelling – Alice @ Wonderland

A contemporary retelling of Lewis Carol’s classic, now aptly titled Alice @ Wonderland, was staged by the very talented students of Elizabeth Moir School on 2 and 3 November at the Lionel Wendt.

Directed by Anushka Senanayake, it is the familiar tale of Alice retold in the 21st century, with cell phones, Google and woke speak.

The modern retellings of beloved classics have been a recently emergent trend that is often plaguing the big screen, television and also, apparently, the theatre.

Speaking about her motivation to do this particular adaptation with a modern twist, the Director said: “I try to make all of my productions as contemporary and relatable as possible.”

“I’ve sort of been obsessed with Alice in Wonderland for a while now, and it just felt like the best fit,” she added, saying that the kids she cast are daring, and this allowed them free reign to explore their characters and put their own spin.

Anusha also employs a rotating cast for the two-day run of the show with some characters being played by a different set of actors for the second night. She said: “There’s so much talent available, and I felt like this allowed us to showcase a wider range of talent and permit more opportunities.”

Audience members Nazia Rajkotwala and Ansuman Vanderpoorten, both of whom were there to watch their talented friends on opening night, said: “We loved the show, we’re glad that everyone gets a chance to display their talent in a fun production like this.”

Ansuman Vanderpoorten

The play was visually fantastic; it was gorgeously lit with fantastic set pieces – courtesy of Marlon Jesudasan. What appears to be Papier-mâché Cheshire cat was stunning and the rest of the visual elements, including the costumes, were flawless and brilliant.

Many of the audience members were also in agreement, with Marie and Max saying: “The costumes and props were really great, it was very refreshing to see,” adding that “the dialogs were very clever, and the music and dancing were very well rehearsed”.

The Director employs extremely skilled dancers; a cast ranging from ages 10-18, and the talent was quite evident with smooth dance numbers. The music too was well thought out, using a blend of existing tracks and original music.

However, the opening night’s Alice, with her mobile phone and her teenage sarcasm, felt as though she wasn’t all that committed to her performance. This could quite easily be as a result of the “contemporary” elements of the play, feeling out of pace in the largely classical setting with only the cell phone and the scattered references sticking to the theme.

The meant-to-be contemporary elements did feel as though they’ve been confined into a typical script of actual Alice in Wonderland, with the only other changes being the caterpillar being a teenager as it should be in its larval stage.

Speaking about the setting, audience member  said: “It was a good twist to the old tale, and it actually gives a good message to children,” referring to how the play depicts modern priorities with Alice’s determination to charge her phone.

Younha Jung

Regardless of the odd setting, it was a polished show with truly talented kids giving it their all. Alice @ Wonderland was a good time, complete with many laugh-out-loud moments, particularly the Mad Hatter’s laugh which really had the audience in stitches every single time.


By Dimithri Wijesinghe 

Photos Saman Abesiriwardana