Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Roundhouse, review: 'Accompanied by my son who has special needs I was moved by its joyful celebration of difference.

PUBLISHED: 13:50 10 January 2017

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the Roundhouse. Picture: Alice Pennefather

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the Roundhouse. Picture: Alice Pennefather

ROH 2016

With its soulful, grooving live music and audience participation, the dance theatre company marries street dance with narrative

When it premiered in 2014, Zoonation’s high-energy sideways take on Lewis Carroll’s tale was the first hip-hop piece commissioned by the Royal Ballet.

With its soulful, grooving live music and audience participation, the dance theatre company which marries street dance with narrative in hits such as Into the Hoods finds a fitting home in the Roundhouse’s more rock n roll atmosphere.

We meet Carroll’s characters miserably incarcerated in an asylum bent on making them normal. Stuttering young doctor Ernest tries to therapise them, and as each gets a solo, thanks to Josh Cohen’s spoken word narration we discover the jittery ticking White Rabbit has OCD, the volcanically angry Red Queen an abusive childhood, and Alice clutching a cake to make her grow, anorexia. Even the dormouse has narcolepsy.

Each performer expresses their pathology in particular dance style that is also particular to them; whether it’s Tweedledum (hallucinating a phantom twin who died in infancy) and Tweedledum’s hilarious dance battle over their rattle, or the Cheshire Cat’s bipolar disorder which alternates between laid back reggae and a manic pounding beat.

Overcoming their dazed doctor, they gleefully escape back to Wonderland, a forest idyll created by the kindly Mad Hatter – suffering the fatal palsy of mercury poisoning from millinery - as a safe space for non-normals. A 30-min interval scene change transforms the stage into a giant table laid for a jolly party where everyone gets to show off their best moves and the headspun headshrinker finds his groove.

The puppet dormouse trying to get it on with Alice while fighting fatigue is a comic highlight. At nearly three hours it needs tightening, pruning, and frankly better acting, but you wouldn’t want them to cut a second of the dancing. Accompanied by my son who has special needs I was moved by its plea for compassion and joyful celebration of difference.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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