Damon Albarn's new musical Wonder.land premièred at the Manchester International Festival i 2015, so this is very late review indeed. I was lucky to have been at the festival in 2014, but not in 2015 , last year. This show has made it's way down to the NT in London and has been running now a for several months.
As you can tell it is the Alice in Wonderland tale for a 21st Century audience, where the idea of going into a "magical" or "unreal" world, in this case, the internet. A place where children spend most of their time these days. It is a world where anything is possible but also (like the Alice books) it can be incredibly dangerous!
This show had a very confident and utterly mad first half, I can see how it would split some audiences. The heroine Ali is a young teenage girl is fed up with her mum and is bullied at lot at her new school, so she escapes into her phone into a game which is a virtual reality called wonder dot land. Here she creates her avatar "Alice" (modelled on a "perfect" blond white girl) as Ali wishes she could be someone or something else. The avatar is played by a dancer with interesting stylised movements that look like a computer game character, slightly rigid and exact. Then we follow the avatar and Ali's story in parallel, both in the real world and the virtual one as they both essentially go on a quest to answer one of the most profound questions, Who are you? (from the caterpillar) and it is one of the most important questions and ideas in this piece.
The second half seemed to veer off and we had a story about Ali's parents which unfortunately I found my self less interested in. Some of the music is fun but at times it feels repetitive, one number in particular felt like there was no need for it at all. It was an interesting idea but I feel it got lost and over played the metaphors a little, an interesting take on this timeless story but I think more of the original story was what was needed.