Wonderland – Shakespearian experience?

Wonderland, presented by Vanishing Point and conceived and directed by Matthew Lenton was a challenging watch for most of us. Those of us who try to write plays maybe found it more challenging than others.

I want a writer. The absence of a central voice grates. My expectations now change when I see that ominous phrase ‘in the rehearsal room’ or the other improvised by the company. There’s nothing wrong with being a writer/director. It has a respectable track record. As companies like Vanishing Point demonstrate there’s lots to be gained by listening to the cast and designers, but I think the end result doesn’t represent the truth of the vision if everyone has had a hand in diluting it.

The subject matter – on-line pornography, the lure of fame, sexual bullying, difficult teen parent relations – didn’t make comfortable viewing and on Thursday night when I saw Wonderland, several people walked out. The young man next to me hung on after his party had left (drama in the aisles as well as on the stage), until the heroine died. “I can go now,” he said. Writing a thesis? Defying his hosts? Proving a point? Who knows. Whatever, it wasn’t the end.

I do think the audience needs to stick with a play through the ending and Vanishing Point’s Wonderland is a good example of that.

Some of the text was brilliant. I loved the line delivered by Flavia Gusmao to her on-line punter: “So – sue me!” Some lacked clarity. I thought the home background was undeveloped and couldn’t understand why a mother was cutting off her clearly distressed child. In places the set got in the way. Yes, it was a window. Did it have to be a window with a line down the middle?

It had only the most tenuous link to Alice in Wonderland which I found disappointing. Was that simply a device to provide a suitable blurb for the Festival brochure? I am pleased I didn’t let early reviews put me off, though. Wonderland was thought provoking. The young cast were extremely brave. I found the level of violence portrayed about equivalent to a Shakespeare play, but the level of violence and coercion hinted at in the hidden worlds of pornography, terrifying to contemplate.

Viewing on-line pornography is a vile addiction because, unlike alcohol for example, it’s not likely to be the addicted person who is destroyed. It’s likely to be the vulnerable lured into participation who bear the scars – if they survive.

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