It was now 150 years ago that Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland made its first appearance into the book shelves. Lewis Carroll’s bizarre and nonsensical novel has gained such a popularity over the decades, that it has never once stopped being a source of inspiration across all arts. Its whimsical stories, wonderful characters and witty wordplays have effectively transcended the context of literature and made their way into our collective imagination, and it feels as if this bond can never be severed: you say white rabbit, you think of Alice; you say hatter, you think of the Mad one; you say Cheshire, you think of the Cat’s mischievous grin; you say Queen of Hearts, you think “Off with their heads!”.
It therefore comes without saying that this year’s anniversary will spark lots of new, creative ways to pay homage to such a big part of popular culture. One of these is undoubtedly a new production opening at the London’s National Theatre.
wonder.land (pronounced “wonder-dot-land”) is a new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic story and it’s about a young girl, Aly, who, trapped in a life from which she feels alienated and surrounded by people who constantly disappoint her, disappears into another wonderful (online) world through the “rabbit hole” of her smartphone.
Combining live theatre and digital technology, Rufus Norris stages what they call an “immersive digital installation”, venturing into an exploration of the potential of theatre and video. The wide range of technologies used by their creative team (from motion picture and facial motion capture to the creation of a full 3d character) marries perfectly with the uber-modern online-age reinterpretation of Alice’s adventures, which touches on topics such as virtual realities, idealised avatars and Internet gambling addiction.
The contrast between the dullness of the real world and the fantastical glitz of wonder.land, the fictional online game, is in large part achieved through technology. ‘The video is really important to create that contrast’, says Betsy Dadd, assistant designer. ‘The real world is made into a very analog, black and white, handmade way. And then we transition into this technicolour, computer-generated landscape’.
Vogue didn’t miss the chance to join the celebrations, and their December issue features Kendall Jenner posing alongside the cast from wonder.land in a uniquely quirky and wacky photoshoot by Mert and Marcus.
Rocking bleached hair and dark eye make-up, Jenner is wrapped in bold and bright outfits, surrounded by fantastical characters and weird sets that are out of this world.
This isn’t the first time Vogue takes inspiration from Carroll’s tales. In fact, how to forget the whimsical and magical shoot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, famous for her fantasy shots full of awe, surprise and intimacy. Similarly to Mert and Marcus’ work, here Natalia Vodianova, dressed up as little Alice, stars alongside famous faces the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Some stories are meant to last forever, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those. These images have the power to stir profound memories in us, summon up fairy-tale worlds of merry unbirthdays and late-running rabbits, and draw us irresistibly into fantastical realms of dream.