In this day and age, it seems like everything that was ever made is subject to a reboot or two. I'm usually not a fan of these reboots, mostly because they never bring anything new to the table. That's because a reboot is often just that, the same basic story with the same characters, brought to modern times to appeal to the children or grandchildren of the people that the original appealed to. But I have a soft spot for retellings.
Retellings are different from your average reboot, they aren't just a modern telling of the same story; they're an inventive one. The 2010 reboot of Alice in Wonderland was close, it gave a darker spin to the original story of Alice's adventures in Wonderland. But all in all, it was the same basic tale.
I appreciated that movie for all the twists and turns it created to try and create something new out of an old story, and I look forward to the sequel. But what I appreciate more, is Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris' complete retelling of Alice in Wonderland for the stage, to the point where it's hardly even the same story any more!
Damon Albarn, co-creator of the bands Blur and Gorillaz, has partnered with Rufus Norris, artistic director of the National Theatre in London, and screenwriter Moira Buffini to create a play that completely re-imagine's the classic story by Lewis Caroll. And it certainly accomplishes that!
Wonder.land is a modern retelling, introducing modern technology and social media to the wonderful world of Wonderland. But don't worry, it isn't how you think. It's not simply making Wonderland into some modern city with tablets and smartphones, and teenagers taking selfies with thousands of hashtags attached to them.
Wonder.land follows the story of Aly (portrayed by Lois Chimimba), a troubled biracial teenager who is bullied at school and neglected at home. In order to escape her hard knock life, Aly begins to play a new cyber-fantasy game called Wonder.land. Upon entering the game, she chooses as her avatar a blue-eyed, blonde fairy princess (portrayed by Rosalie Craig).
It's a very interesting take on the story of Alice, and a clever metaphor for how our phones, tablets, and etc. are basically "Looking Glasses", considering how long we look into them. Each of our apps and games are practically little virtual Wonderlands, whereas we are Alice, venturing into them and having adventures of our own. As a gamer, I can truly resonate with this.
Like the story from which it gets inspiration, Wonder.land features a variety of strange characters and odd elements.
The play is very inventive, and it is certainly a telling of Alice in Wonderland that's never been done before. The parallels between real life and fantasy are also pretty cleverly done. Just like Aly is Alice, the residents of Wonderland can be found channeled into the people in Aly's real life.
Her cruel headmistress, Ms Manxome (portrayed by Anna Francolini) picks on Aly. She confiscates her phone, steals her identity and takes over Aly's avatar. Manxome's actions and special kind of bullying towards Aly definitely make her the Red Queen of Aly's life.
All in all, Wonder.land sounds like a very inventive and modern retelling of the classic Lewis Caroll tale. It's a risky move, introducing elements of social media, online gaming and troubled lifestyle realism to the surreal, fantastical world of Wonderland and its characters. But until I see the play (if I ever), I can't say for sure if I think it works.
All I can say is that it's definitely new, and I have to give Damon Albarn and co. credit for trying to bring new life into an old tale. The play is still new, so it's tough to say if it will become as classic as its source material. I'm honestly hoping it at least gets close; close enough to inspire more retellings of classic tales, one's that actually bring something new and inventive to the table.
Wonder.land had it's world premiere at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on July 2nd, and is expected to transfer to the London National Theatre in late 2015, before opening at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris in 2016.