LFGYVR – Alice in Glitterland
Our poor generation.
We’re maligned. We’re told we’re lazy and uninspired, but we often work harder than our parents could ever dream for less than they understand, and the things some of us create…
We know we can’t afford the hallmarks of yesteryear. We can’t buy houses, we can’t go on vacation. Most of us can’t afford a trip to the dentist or a trip to anywhere. Older generations laugh when we photograph our food, but a fancy night out is sometimes the only thing we can treat ourselves with. At the same time, we’re more educated than any generation before us, well-versed in the corruption of our political system, in the plurality of human identity, in the environmental devastation that’s like to kill us all.
There’s stories of Christian-dominated Europe losing themselves to Bacchanal madness when they thought their world was ending with the first millennium. Our world is ending. There doesn’t appear to be anything we can do to stop it without violent revolution.
But don’t worry – we’re all mad here.
Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice books were a direct response to mathematical theories of the day. Lewis couldn’t wrap his head around irrational and imaginary numbers and decided to explore the concepts of madness and nonsense because why not stare that abyss directly in the face? The result was a masterwork that has taken on meaning far beyond what he intended and lent itself to powerful of identity, sanity, and society as a whole.
Enter the Geekenders: Vancouver’s home-grown theater company, known for their incredible burlesque musicals and interactive theater experiences. They’ve crafted something wholly new and original, a journey into madness and grace with an Alicean overlay that needs to be experienced to be understood.
First off: the Geekenders are well-known for doing more with less, and here they have created an entire other world. The journey begins before the show even starts, as guests are given masks that indicate whether they want to be an active part of the show or if they’d prefer to be voyeurs. Rules and laws are discussed before everyone is ushered into a small waiting area to play games and get a taste of what’s to come.
And then the trip begins.
It starts with a song and light. The Red Queen may prance around with menace and power, but it is the music that dictates every twist and turn. Running a brisk seventy-minutes, the soundtrack informs everything that happens, every experience, every breathtaking dance and performance from characters you think you know and are brought to raw sensual life. There’s power in raw emotion, a creative madness that suffuses every routine and every dialogue. There’s courage in these performances and the performers undertaking them.
Keagan Elrick, who designed the miasma of soft lights that paint every scene, needs to be mentioned. Shadow and color play are characters in and of themselves, turning a small theater into someplace indescribably other. It’s a space where things look like they should be familiar and are decidedly not. It’s an incredible accomplishment, to skew a physical space so that it feels so very different.
This show offers two very distinct experiences: the first is to simply stay in the main theater and watch as the story unfolds in a series of maddening dances that will rip at your heart. The other is to follow the players into the backrooms and shadows of their world, to speak with them and become part of their individual quests of identity.
Because – regardless of what Lewis might have intended – that’s what Alice stories have become about: finding identity, finding a place, standing against fascism and patriarchy and all the toxic bullshit that goes along with it. The earliest introductions before the show even begins drive home the terror everyone experiences living under the Red Queen, and the courage we find in experiences like this one should give us the courage to stand up against those same evils in our world.
Heady stuff, maybe, but this is what theater does: gives us more ways to experience and helps us refine our understanding of the world and our place in it. In this and as a show, Alice in Glitterland succeeds beyond what anyone might have expected. Find your courage and know that we can win against the forces of old and evil. Just like Alice, we just need to decide what we want and then we can go and get it.
Alice in Glitterland is part of this year’s Fringe Festival, running at the Wise Hall from Friday, September 6th, 2019 through til Saturday, September 14th, 2019. You can and should nab tickets by clicking here.