Overview: Unhealthy Hats Theatre’s reimagining of Alice in Wonderland dares us to lean into childlike curiosity

Overview: Unhealthy Hats Theatre’s reimagining of Alice in Wonderland dares us to lean into childlike curiosity

Overview: Unhealthy Hats Theatre’s reimagining of Alice in Wonderland dares us to lean into childlike curiosity

Not like the unique model with which many people are acquainted, this rendition of Alice in Wonderland begins in a classroom.JOHN HOLOSKO AND ROBERT METCALFE/Soulpepper

  • Title: Alice in Wonderland
  • Tailored by: Fiona Sauder
  • Music by: Landon Doak and Victor Pokinko
  • Director: Sue Miner
  • Actors: Tess Benger, Landon Doak, Jessica Gallant, Aisha Jarvis, Breton Lalama, Richard Lam, Matt Pilipiak, Fiona Sauder, Vanessa Sears
  • Firm: Unhealthy Hats Theatre with Soulpepper
  • Venue: Younger Centre for the Performing Arts
  • Metropolis: Toronto
  • Run: To Jan. 7, 2023

What do you need to be while you develop up?

That is one query each considered one of us was seemingly requested as a baby – or have requested a baby after changing into adults ourselves. However what if it’s been the fallacious query all alongside?

In Unhealthy Hats Theatre’s up to date reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the query of what Alice (Tess Benger) desires to be weighs heavy on her. The question is initially introduced to her in a homework project, however it proceeds to comply with her in practically each considered one of her interactions. Her lack of ability to provide you with a definitive reply – and as a substitute ask much more questions – turns into her driving power.

Unhealthy Hats, a comparatively small theatre firm, initially conceived of and mounted this musical manufacturing on the top of the pandemic after their profitable manufacturing of Peter Pan – however solely a singular efficiency was ever filmed and streamed on-line. Since its digital debut in 2021, the present has been reimagined for a stay viewers that, in an fascinating set-up, are seated on each side of the stage.

Not like the unique model with which many people are acquainted, this rendition, tailored by Fiona Sauder, begins in a classroom, the place Alice constantly questions the which means behind the maths questions – and the very idea of time itself – somewhat than offering the point-blank solutions requested by her instructor, Mr. Charles (Matt Pilipiak).

Punished for her relentless inquisitiveness, Alice is banished to the again of the classroom to complete her homework. She will be able to’t assist however stare out the window daydreaming, and it’s not lengthy earlier than she finds herself following a white rabbit (additionally Pilipiak) down the rabbit gap and into Wonderland.

Benger’s Alice, clad in pink overalls as a substitute of the traditional blue costume, is infused with an lovely, childlike awkwardness. Her comedic timing and skilled supply frequently elicit laughs from an viewers that’s clearly enamoured by her.

Shortly after she arrives, the stakes of Alice’s journey by means of Wonderland are raised when she makes a wager with the Purple Queen (Vanessa Spears, who has a powerful vocal vary), in hopes of changing into a queen herself by crossing eight squares on a chess board. As she desperately continues her seek for what she desires to be, a queen little question looks like a stable selection.

Regardless of a minimalist set made up solely of desks, chairs, a blackboard and wood frames, director Sue Miner does a superb job of bringing the scenes to life by means of tightly choreographed actions and lights.JOHN HOLOSKO AND ROBERT METCALFE/Soulpepper

Alongside the way in which, she meets all of the beloved characters from the unique story – and each fills her thoughts with much more questions. Apart from Alice and the Cheshire Cat (Aisha Jarvis), the actors every play a number of roles however efficiently carry one thing new to each character. Tweedle Dee (Sauder) and Tweedle Dum (Landon Doak) are significantly enjoyable to look at due to their bodily comedy and synchronicity.

Whereas earlier diversifications of this story (such because the Nationwide Ballet of Canada’s 2011 manufacturing) have used vibrant, intricate units to painting the fantasy world that’s Wonderland, a wholesome dose of suspension of disbelief is required for viewing this model. The minimalist set is made up solely of desks, chairs, a blackboard and wood frames. However by means of tightly choreographed actions and lights, director Sue Miner does a superb job at bringing the scenes to life, so that you don’t must work too laborious to imagine Alice is in a backyard or on a prepare, rising, shrinking or swimming.

Stuffed with catchy authentic music (each instrument is performed by a member of the forged), modern-day references and Sauder’s quick-witted humour, the present is fast-paced and intelligent sufficient for any grownup to get pleasure from, whereas nonetheless providing loads of magical moments and kid-friendly jokes for youthful viewers members.

In Wonderland, the characters communicate how I think about grown-ups should sound to youngsters: filled with contradictions and sentences that solely immediate additional questions – which they then usually refuse to reply. Within the first scene, the extra Alice asks her instructor why the trains are late within the math downside they’re supposed to resolve, the extra he dismisses her. What a maddening expertise it have to be to be a baby surrounded by thick-headed adults pretending to know every thing however are actually crammed with simply as many questions.

Towards the top of the present, a scene between Alice and the caterpillar is a selected standout, serving to to drive dwelling the central theme.

“What I’m and who I’m are solely various things,” the caterpillar tells Alice earlier than rising from a cocoon with vibrant wings. “I’ll nonetheless be a caterpillar once I’m a butterfly.”

The caterpillar is performed by trans actor Breton Lalama, who brings a welcome calmness to the function and provides an entire different layer of which means to the interplay.

Maybe the sage caterpillar is on to one thing, and we actually have been getting all of it fallacious by asking what youngsters need to be, somewhat than who. And the way will we determine who we need to be? By asking questions, this present argues, and embracing our curiosities. Kids do that naturally. Possibly, as a substitute of instructing them to silence their internal questions, we as adults may study a factor or two from their persistent questioning. Maybe we must always all strive stopping time, to daydream and go to Wonderland somewhat extra usually.

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