A is for Alice: and her adventures under ground (and not, as Babu was disappointed to discover, on the Underground, which would have been a very different opera but a fun one nonetheless). Gerald Barry’s brilliantly ridiculous operatic condensing of Alice’s escapades both in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is likely the most exhilarating hour you’re ever going to have at the opera, and that goes for all ages, from the four year old to my right (that was Babu) who was captivated by the singing cakes and the “lady with the egg box on her head” to the older lady to my left who, when she wasn’t giving me the stink eye for accidentally rustling my packet of Terry’s Chocolate Orange Mini segments, was proper pissing herself laughing at all the jokes.
B is for Batshit: And by jokes I mean less actual jokes and more bonkers surreal comic situations that got funnier and more batshit as the opera went on, with personal favourites including a hilarious Humpty Dumpty and a fish footman with “Anglo-Saxon, attitude” (and I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it did involve some pretty great dancing). Indeed, this seriously abbreviated version of Carroll’s classic goes by in such a flash and with so many brilliantly bizarre scenes and situations it begins to resemble the insides of an acid-addled Lewis Carroll’s mind, which is really saying something if you’ve ever read his ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. But despite galloping along at breakneck speed, introducing more than 50 characters in as many minutes and featuring snippets of French, German and Russian dialogue, it still somehow manages to be accessible to even the tiniest of opera-goers.
C is for Costumes: So what, apart from singing cakes and “the lovely horsies”, makes this micro-opera so appealing to little people? Well, obviously I can’t speak for everyone’s mini but one thing that kept coming up when I chatted about it with Babu on our way home was the highly inventive costume situation, from Alice’s pantaloon-and-crinoline combo (Mummy, why was the lady with the red hair wearing that big net thing over her trousers?”), to the prevalence of old-school garments such as waistcoats, braces and corsets. That and the sets were just beautiful – so much so it almost seemed a shame that the scenes were so short. All in all it was just really stylishly done. Fast, furious and ultimately kind of exhausting, but that’s how I like my opera (I mean this was my first one but that sounded convincing, right?)
Tickets: Our tickets were very generously gifted in return for a review (love you ROH), but they cost from £3-£60 to buy.
Verdict: Bold, beautiful and brilliantly batshit. 5/5
Until 9th February 2020
Disclaimer: this was a gifted experience but my reviews are always completely (sometimes painfully) honest.
And yeah we totally failed on the photo front. This is Babu at the Wonder Factory in Dalston, but for the sake of this review let’s call it ‘Babu in Wonderland’.