I’d read a review about a different take on the Alice in Wonderland story being performed at the Roundhouse in Camden, and intrigued by the fusion of Streetdance and hip hop alongside the more traditional tale of Alice in Wonderland, I booked tickets for me and the kids to go and see ZooNation’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party as a New Year’s treat.
For the first 10 minutes I was slightly concerned about what I’d brought my children to see. Having been sent a warning email to say that the play explored some elements of mental health issues I had given them a slight briefing, however the warning didn’t really explain that the entire production centered around mental health issues, with all of the characters displaying a different mental health problem. Rather than being down a rabbit hole, Alice was a resident of a mental health institution and all of the other main characters from your traditional ‘Wonderland’ had different problems.
The Queen of Hearts had been abused as a child – and was thus the abuser with serious anger management issues. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were in fact one schizophrenic man. The White Rabbit had OCD hence his obsession with time. The March Hare had low self-esteem. And Alice herself had body dysmorphia – eat me/drink me – bigger and smaller. Once this became apparent I was more than a little apprehensive about how my kids would enjoy a play based around a cornucopia of mental health issues – but fortunately my fears were unfounded. They loved it!
The storyline was original, the music was amazing – with a live modern jazz band (think Brand New Heavies) and fabulous vocalists. The narrator was witty and talented. And the dancing was off the scale. In fact this modern take on Alice brought the whole tale bang up to date and made a lot of sense despite being set in a ‘Mad house’.
My only slight criticism is the venue itself. Whilst I love the Roundhouse and think it’s a great music venue, the posts (holding up the roof?) do prove slightly problematic when you’re watching a play rather than a music performance as they kinda get in your way! However I can’t complain too much as to compensate Alice herself did a solo dance within touching distance in the opening scenes of the performance when each of the major characters were introduced with their own special solo dance routine.
The tickets were offered at adult and child prices which made a refreshing change, so for the three of us to go on a Saturday night the cost was around £60 which I think is very reasonable for a performance of this quality and in such a major London venue. I would certainly recommend the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – but if you take your kids (under 12s are officially not recommended) make sure you brief them properly first.