16 November 2016
A delightful experiment in story-telling is this fascinatingly innovative entertainment: composer-writer-choreographer-singer-director Stuart Saint’s ‘interdisciplinary’ piece of theatre. Taking the extremely well-known story of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as the starting point, Saint blasts the audience with a thumping 80s fusion style pre-recorded soundtrack, with himself on vocals (a rather attractive voice, not unlike Mark Almond’s), while an eclectically chosen company of eight (seven here, because of injury) act out the archetypal scenes of the adventures of a storybook heroine on her quest. To do this, he employs moves drawn from many different styles: commercial; musical theatre; arthouse contemporary; ballet; street dance. It’s huge fun, and races past in barely over an hour, hitting many more pleasure-spots than lulls.
The dancers here, therefore, are key to the performance. Morgan Scott, as the white rabbit figure, is sensuous and poised, elegant in long sinuous gestures, with a disciplined physique that moves and holds positions with no visible effort, communicating directly and securely with the audience. His is a stand-out performance in the troupe and he is clearly an artist going places. Travis Sumner and Onyemachi Ejimofor come from the same London Studio Centre stable as him, but their steps don’t call for the same degree of ruthless precision: they are more genial, humorous, relaxed and conversational. In this, the girls come closer to them than the elusive rabbit: Naomi Peaston, Louise Andree Douglas and Helen Scott are all given character roles, like Sumner and Ejimofor, playing many different parts with a terrific grasp of their idiosyncrasy and differentiation. They are on stage for most of the performance, and the pace is punishing: Scott, in particular, is pushed through a series of splendid jumps and lifts, which he clearly relishes. Jennie Dickie, meanwhile, has to play the ‘Alice/Princess’ part fairly straight, and she does so with considerable clarity and warmth: she is the one character we feel closest too, and we identify with her journey readily and interestedly.
The choreography rewards close attention, and possibly the presence of some TV screens at the front of the stage – Mary Colhisey’s design concept – obscure important details. Overall, though, the look is engagingly contemporary: the narrative is simple enough to follow. Pete Ayres lights it all competently, and the sound by Simon Kitts and Sam Dyson is fair (although we long to hear Saint’s lyrics clearly enough to follow them). Lana Avis and Gwen Jones are the ‘resident choreographers’, and additional material comes from Mo Jen. Saint has something going here and we look forward to seeing it develop further.