Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Alice in Funderland

In the few short days since it opened, much has been made of the fact that The Abbey has put on its first musical in 20 years.  And it is worth the fuss, so why do I find it so hard to put my thoughts into words?

Developed over 4 years and work-shopped last year at the Project Arts Centre, Alice in Funderland is a modern musical retelling of Alice in Wonderland, done with an electropop soundtrack.  The show was produced in conjunction with This is Pop Baby.

Alice is a young Cork girl, depressed and trying to deal with her sister's upcoming wedding.  She finds herself alone and lost in Dublin on the hen night and spends the rest of her time trying to track down Warren, a guy she randomly snogs in a club.  Sarah Greene's performance as Alice underpins the show, not just because she plays the titular character: she is rarely off the stage - it is a role that must give credit to her stamina, vocal and acting skills.  She is the only actor to have a solitary role in this 15 strong ensemble cast.  Her single costume change even happens on stage.  The Queen of Hearts becomes the Queen of Hartstown, and is played by Tony Flynn in the grandest tradition of cross-gender performance.  I spent most of the play waiting to see his red dress costume and was not disappointed with Naomi Wilkinson's design.  The set was minimalist, as befits a dreamlike scene changing play with dance numbers, and had clever use of light. 

Paul Reid & Sarah Greene in character.  Courtesy of The Abbey.
The standout performances for me came from Paul Reid as "The Gay" (no really, that's the character's name), reminding me of Wayne Jordan, the play's director, in his college days, and from Abbey veteran Mark O'Regan in numerous guises.  My favourite scene was the "The Afternoon Tea Party Show" take-off of many mediocre RTÉ daytime programs and I especially liked the little touches of Irish thrown in.  Many of the songs are catchy and I was humming airs, if not singing lyrics, even today.  However, I did feel the whole start of the show could be sharper, the opening songs should pack more of a punch and at least 2 numbers were extraneous to the plot.  The show runs for (quick maths) something like 2 hours 40 mins and feels a little too long.

Yeats and Gregory have left the building, but this is no bad thing.  Make your own mind up though because everyone is sure to be talking about this for the next month, and probably long after it closes.

Alice in Funderland runs until Saturday, 12th May and tickets can be booked on the website, where you can also find details of related events.


  1. My favourite sections/songs were the Caterpillar/Taxi man and the Politician/Cheshire Cat, they really stood out for me and I've been thinking about them all day. The writing was very funny and the whole cast seemed despicably talented. Thematically I found it similar to The Government Inspector, which was the last time I was in The Abbey, also with you. I loved being at something new with so many great female roles, always exciting to witness.

    I concur that it is well worth a look. More of this sort of thing The Abbey.

  2. Excellent play, highly recommended- i saw it twice!