Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Teenage Wonderland

Emily-Louise Duff, Young Journalist at Connections at the NT Day 5

Every teenager has their own tale to tell of their journey from childhood to adolescence. ‘Alice by Heart’, written by Stephen Sater and Duncan Sheik, explores the story of Alice Parsley as she leaves her childhood behind. Set during the war in a London underground station, Alice and her dying friend Alfred fall down the rabbit hole to well-known Wonderland for one last adventure. With Alfred playing the White Rabbit, and Alice her namesake, the adventure is one that turns out to be far from the classic story we have come to love.
Flying High Theatre Company in Alice By Heart, Photo: Simon Annand

Teenagers face many problems while growing up; drugs, peer pressure, changing physical appearance, sexual feelings. Sater and Sheik’s rock-musical addresses these problems in comical ways that highlight problem areas for many in growing up. It seems that for Alice, these problems are best handled in a land where not everything is at it appears, although her confusion seems doubled as the classic tale she remembers by heart changes around her.

The first problem addressed is changing physical appearances, with mock Alice characters taunting her about her figure; “you don’t have the chin for that”. A problem that many teenagers, mostly female, have to face as they lose their innocent figures for new curvaceous frames. We are then introduced to sexualised Caterpillar, who is obviously impressed by the new Alice; “grow yourself such breasts and hips.” The singular Caterpillar character we all know in the original story is replaced by multiple Caterpillars, who all team up to peer-pressure Alice into taking drugs, again another problem that some teenagers may face. Imagine all of the problems you faced, or are facing, as a teenager. In short, the classical tale is changed to reflect these problems, with Alice facing and dealing with them all.
Flying High Theatre Company in Alice By Heart, Photo: Simon Annand

One of the final musical numbers in ‘Alice by Heart’ is a song with the line “isn’t it a trial to try and stay a child?” and this seems to sum up the whole process of leaving childhood behind. Whilst the original Wonderland Alice visited was a magical land, times had changed and the story changed too, leaving Alice wishing for the innocent, simple place she knew before. Through Sater and Sheik’s clever adaptation of a timeless and popular story, we are shown that the journey to and through Wonderland, from childhood to adolescence, is never the simple journey we wish it would be.

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