Theatre review: Wonderland; Lyceum Theatre
THERE’S no denying Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic Alice in Wonderland works on a number of adult levels, but it’s unlikely he foresaw Matthew Lenton’s own “adult” take, inspired by the book’s themes of curiosity, adventure and danger.
In this darkly challenging but ultimately flawed production by the usually reliable Vanishing Point, we witness Alice’s sordid and progressively harrowing foray into hard-core pornography, set alongside John’s addiction to chatting with webcam models, an obsession that takes a sickening turn as fantasy crosses over into a disturbing reality.
Given the extreme material so readily available to anyone with an internet connection, it’s undoubtedly a concept worth exploring, as are the complexities of why people use it and fall into making it, but the overriding inference here – porn makes people do bad things – feels overly simplistic.
Technically, it’s first-class, with an impressively unsettling soundscape and clever use of live video footage. The staging is undeniably smart too, much of the action taking place behind a huge window which doubles up as a projection screen, and the symbolism of watching other people’s lives through that window, creating voyeurs out of each audience member, is apt.
But as the line between what’s real and what’s imagined becomes increasingly blurred, the narrative becomes unsatisfying and ambiguous, the pacing at times far too ponderous. Certain scenes are agonisingly drawn out, clearly in order to make for uncomfortable viewing, but although this serves to heighten the tension initially, it just becomes frustrating.
It’s also gratuitously graphic; the first instance of nudity is powerfully visceral, shocking but necessary, yet each subsequent occurrence renders the original less and less effective. It’s a real shame because in small bursts these moments carry emotional weight, but the impact diminishes with repetition.
Thankfully, the actors do much to deliver some form of redemption. Jenny Hulse gives a captivating, compelling performance as the vulnerable Alice, while Damir Todorovic is excellent as the manipulative pornographer Johnny, but even these sterling efforts fail to save a play that’s not nearly as clever as it thinks.
Rating: * *
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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