THEATRE REVIEW: wonder.land featuring music by Damon Albarn

WORTH A LOOK?: **1/2

WHERE: National Theatre

WHEN: 30/1, running to 30/4

A teenage audience member’s face turns sour as she is covered in liquid by a baby doll which appears to be throwing up over the front row at this musical co-written by Blur’s Damon Albarn.

We’re in the front row too, although dry thankfully, and can’t help but think wonder.land‘s obsession with immersive spectacle over substance reminds us of the last show we saw here which also boasted the National’s new artistic director Rufus Norris at the helm.

Chiwetel Ejiofor-starrer Everyman similarly boasted a character urinating on stage through a fake penis as cartoonishly dressed larger-than-life characters seemingly from a nightmarish extravagantly funded 90s pop video dominated proceedings. There were also drug taking scenes in Everyman and the inclusion of song Everyone Loves Charlie (the name of the sick baby) here seems solely to provoke wry smiles at its irrelevant cocaine reference.

‘the story is not strong enough to satisfy and the direction is frankly as all over the place as the mobile scenery’

The story is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and sees bullied schoolgirl Aly (the down-to-earth and likeable Lois Chimimba) find confidence from her Alice avatar (Carly Bawden excellent in last year’s McQueen and again here) as she crosses swords with an evil headmistress and enlists the help of her best friend Luke (Enyi Okoronkwo giving the stand-out performance) being bullied by those who assume he is gay.

Albarn’s music is very Parklife-era Blur although none of it is strong enough to have actually merited inclusion there.

There are many elements of wonder.land to enjoy, the use of graphics on screens is especially impressive, but ultimately the story is not strong enough to satisfy and the direction is frankly as all over the place as the mobile scenery which appears to be operated by remote control.

  • Trailer via YouTube courtesy National Theatre. Tickets here.
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham

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