Alice in Wonderland - A whole new adventure!
Date Posted: 12/08/2015
The story goes that author Lewis Carroll became close with Henry Liddell, his wife, Lorina, and their three children; the youngest of which was named Alice. Carroll would often take the children on rowing trips and make stories up for the journey. On one of these expeditions he created the outline for Alice in Wonderland. Young Alice Liddell asked Carroll to write it down and he eventually presented her with a handwritten, illustrated manuscript: Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. A year later, it was published as Alice in Wonderland and became an overwhelming commercial success.
It is the tale of an imaginative girl, stifled in a conservative household, who dreams of a land where things are different. Carroll’s genius is in Wonderland, where nonsense reigns supreme and rules are both rampant and non-existent. It ripples with imaginative wordplay and rejoices in turning ideas on their heads. It challenges, pokes, confuses, amuses, derides, mocks, shocks, and delights.
The Young Company is taking a rather different approach to Wonderland. We are using a technique from kabuki theatre where stagehands called kuroko are dressed head-to-toe in black and manipulate both props and costumes during the performance. In effect, they become invisible. For our purposes, we’ve nicknamed them “all-black operators,” or “ABOs” because they’re dressed in all black.
This technique can be exploited for many wacky and wonderful effects. For example, seven people play the Caterpillar; four play the Cheshire Cat; three play Humpty Dumpty. It allows us to blur the lines between puppetry and person. It allows for props to float or appear. In short: it allows us to create theatrical magic. All in real time without the aid of technology.
The entire cast is involved in nearly every scene in the show. If they’re not onstage performing as a character, they’re onstage as an ABO––invisible to you and I. If not onstage, they’re backstage preparing for the next scene, getting into costume, or readying props. This approach demands their undivided attention because every moment depends on the ensemble moving and responding as one.
It would be a challenge for any theatre company to coordinate. The marvel of the Young Company is that, when presented
with a play and given a techniq
ue with so many challenges, young actors rise above and beyond. Welcome to Wonderland; watch your head.
- Colin Simmons, Director