Review: ALiCE (Sadler’s Wells)

Jasmin Vardimon brings her radical reinterpretation of the children’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, ALiCE, to Sadler’s Wells theatre for just two nights. It then continues to tour to Ashford and Dance East – details here.

Alice (Evelyn Hart) is seen in many forms and situations through the 80 minute piece, which fuses dance, video, animation, eclectic music choices, spoken word, and startling design.

The set, by Guy Bar-Amotz and Vardimon, is a giant, upright book with pages which turn to give glimpses of the story as we know it, and as we don’t. It is a clever aid to pull us into the story, wondering what’s coming up next.

Production shot from ALiCE

Carroll’s novel itself has also been opened to interpretation – on the surface a young girl’s adventure in a fantastical world, it can also be interpreted as adolescent rebellion, first love, the understanding of ‘difference’ and more.

Vardimon’s choreography is very athletic – guards leap and roll, one dancer crosses the stage by doing the splits every other step – and also sensual, as a couple hug and fight as they pass through a door.

With seven performers this ALiCE is intimate, energetic, and cheeky, playing with gender norms and expectations. Sabrina Gargano’s Red Queen is tough and decisive and feels like Alice’s spiritual big sister, while Juliette Tellier catches the feline mischief in the Cheshire Cat.

Production shot from ALiCE

One segment titled Identity opens with the whole cast dressed in the same costume of white dress and sensible shoes, moving to the strains of a Living Next Door to Alice with a pulsing beat.

The Carroll influences are here with the Cheshire Cat, caterpillar (with several moments of metamorphosis), Mad Hatter’s tea party, and the Red Queen’s croquet match with twitching flamingos and cowering hedgehog.

This Alice is not just an outsider in Wonderland and the Queendom, but in the world. A final chapter sees her as immigrant and refugee, attempting to access the book at various points. It is about making her way in a world where innocence has been lost and a harsh reality has taken its place.

Production shot from ALiCE

Vardimon’s dancers display a breathtaking skill and energy throughout, with the four male members (Donny Beau Ferris, David Lloyd, Sean Moss, Hobie Schouppe) joining in at every turn, playful, poignant or powerful.

As Alice, Hart evolves as the piece progresses, but remains a curious child at heart, chafing for access to forbidden places and rushing to embrace dangerous situations.

ALiCE has its second performance tonight at Sadler’s Wells: tickets here.


Image credit: Tristam Kenton