The much-loved and well-known children’s tale of Lewis Carroll has been transformed into an eclectic performance of circus, dance and acrobatics by the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club.
The show begins with simple projections of the original illustrations by John Tenniel to set the scene, as the excellently timed soundtrack, which ranges from the classical to the alternative, starts off. The stage is set with subtle hints into the world down the rabbit hole in a monochrome that allows the innocent character of Alice in expected-childish-blue and the spoilt Red Queen to stand out as the protagonists.
Each main stage of the story is performed in spoken acts that are only infused with dance: the meeting with the flower garden; the mad-hatters tea party; the riddling conversation of tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. These scenes are not what gives the show its power however, as voices are at times lost and the words are too familiar to make an impact in their standard presentation. It is the more abstract performances of mesmerising gymnastics that make the show such an original interpretation.
The chorus dancers are the most anticipated acts throughout the show, as their numbers often divide the spoken acts. Their ballet base is given a punchy edge with their interpretative, modern twists. In themselves they convey an enchanting dance of the flowers and, perhaps a highlight of the show, a human game of croquet. The perfect timing and flexibility of the group is displayed in this number, as dancers tumble gracefully across the stage, knocked by the flamingo clubs.
Other highlights are found in the performances of the caterpillar and the Cheshire cat. The mysterious caterpillar dances with body contortions as he is followed by an entourage of ballerinas that make up his rhythmic, faceted body, while the Cheshire cat hangs from a trapeze, dancing in mid air.
There is a desire for more confidence in the power of the interpretative circus acts in this show, so that these acts might take over the more ordinary acting. The ballets, break-dancing, aerial acrobatics and juggling are enough to tell the surreal story with grace and rhythm.
Run: The Debating Hall, Gilded Balloon, 20th – 28th August
Image Credit: John Tenniel’s 1865 illustration of the Cheshire Cat