Australian Dance Reviews

The Australian Ballet transports us in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’

The Australian Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland©'. Photo by Kate Longley.
The Australian Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland©'. Photo by Kate Longley.

Capitol Theatre, Sydney.
20 February 2024.

Down the enchanting rabbit hole of creativity, The Australian Ballet’s whimsical production of Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland© transformed Sydney’s Capitol Theatre into a wonderland on a topsy-turvy Tuesday evening, February 20th. The audience, like Alice herself, was transported to a world where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the extraordinary, utterly fantastical.

The journey commenced in Oxford, 1862, where Act One unfolded at the Liddell Family garden party. Lewis Carroll, portrayed with delight by Brett Chynoweth, regaled three young sisters with a captivating story and mesmerizing magic tricks. The stage was abuzz with a curious commotion over a stolen jam tart, with Alice (played by the charming Sharni Spencer) and her friend Jack (Jarryd Madden) caught in the middle.

As Carroll vanished down the mysterious hole, Alice followed suit, plunging into a world of multidisciplinary brilliance, thanks to the enchanting work of projection designers Gemma Carrington and Jon Driscoll. The stage came alive with curious perspectives, mirroring Alice’s descent into the curiouser and curiouser Wonderland.

Jarryd Madden, embodying the Knave of Hearts, faced accusations of tart theft by the irritable Queen of Hearts, portrayed with regal flair by Ako Kondo. The unfolding chaos led Alice to a magical garden, where she ingeniously shrank and grew with a special potion and cake, presented in a contemporary and artistic interpretation and optical illusions to represent size perspective.

Sharni Spencer’s Alice, brimming with personality, navigated through a myriad of scenes with quirky movements and expressive rolls, immersing the audience in her bewildering journey. The set, a masterpiece of multiple layers, textures, and dimensions, showcased Alice rowing in a boat shaped like a newspaper.

Act One culminated in the introduction of the clever Cheshire Cat, its body comprised of separate elements resembling an accordion, adding an extra layer of whimsy to the fantastical tale.

In Act Two, Alice, guided by the enigmatic Cheshire Cat, stumbled upon a peculiar tea party hosted by the tapping Mad Hatter (George-Murray Nightingale) and encountered an exotic glittery caterpillar, ingeniously formed by multiple dancers. The audience was treated to bursts of beautiful blooms, and Alice finally found herself face-to-face with the pursued Knave of Hearts.

Act Three unfolded with a nervous trio of gardeners attempting to paint flowers red for the demanding Queen of Hearts. Ako Kondo, in her element, donned an extravagant heart costume, orchestrating a spectacle of croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs. The set and costume design by Tony Award-winning Bob Crowley seamlessly blended traditional silhouettes with modern form and textures, with the towering house of cards adding a touch of grandeur.

As the trial of the Knave reached chaos, Alice intervened, winning over the Queen of Hearts. Yet, the Queen, wielding an axe, initiated a chase that resulted in a domino effect of falling characters and the collapse of the house of cards. Amidst the mayhem, Alice awoke.

Composer Joby Talbot’s score, laden with in-jokes, added an extra layer of wit and skill to the production. From the sensual caterpillar featuring an oboe d’amour to the court scene’s dizzying display of musical themes against characters, Talbot’s composition transported the audience into Wonderland.

Artistic Director David Hallberg deemed the ballet a modern-day classic, celebrating its success as a favourite among audiences and dancers alike. The ballet’s unique elements, from a Swarovski-covered caterpillar en pointe to comically terrifying cooks and adorable hedgehogs, made it an extraordinary family favourite.

Crowley’s masterful set and costume design, paired with the seamless coordination of choreography and digital projections, created an immersive Wonderland experience for the audience. The production, recipient of the Helpmann Award for Best Ballet in 2018, promises an action-packed storyline, dancing in the aisles, and falling petals, making Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland© a must-see theatrical delight.

For those eager to tumble down the rabbit hole, The Australian Ballet’s production will grace Sydney’s Capitol Theatre through 5 March, followed by a stint at Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre from March 15-26.

Secure your tickets at, and prepare to embark on a captivating journey where the ordinary meets the extraordinary in a whimsical dance of wonder.

By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.

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