It’s great to see the Abbey taking on a new Irish musical commissioned by THISISPOPBABY, Alice in Funderland. Originally created by Phillip McMahon and Jennifer Jennings, and developed with Raymond Scannell, Wayne Jordan and the company. The development was supported by The Arts Council, the Abbey Theatre, Dublin City Council and Project Arts Centre.
A quite unique modern-day fairytale of an electropop musical with dark humour based loosely on the story of Alice in Wonderland but thoroughly modernized and set in Dublin. The cast is excellent especially the lead character Alice, played by Corkonian Sarah Greene, who looked like this part was written especially for her. There are also some stand-out performances from the Gay on Rollerskates, the French Psychic, the Minister with a Cheshire grin, the Jedwardian twin drug-pushers and of course the dim but loveable Chloe. The story is clever and uses the Alice references throughout on Alice’s route to self-discovery through the streets of Dublin to find the fictional ‘Hartstown’ and the songs are both original and catchy with some excellent duets. I especially loved ‘We’re all on the edge’ – Lady Gaga eat your heart out! It also touches on the modern day problems of the banking crisis and resulting poverty. It’s funny, endearing and at times more than a little politically incorrect. It injects a fun, young, upbeat sense of optimism into the Abbey and with sell-out shows and standing ovations it is a winner all round.
On the negative side, the humour was so dark, it was almost black and at times did veer into the ‘bad taste’ category featuring the Scissor Sisters singing a poignant duet with jarring lyrics “Torsos in the canal” and I think we heard every swear word in the dictionary! I also felt the second half especially the trial scene went on a little too long and lost its way. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste and also won’t translate well beyond the pale without a lot of tweaking. But for me it was an entertaining night out thoroughly enjoyable and a welcome departure from the usual, run of the mill theatre. It ends on a hopeful note with a message of positivity “There is no fear, just nonsense”. The hype is most certainly well deserved. It’s on in the Abbey until May 12th and it’s definitely one to add to your list – a must see in my book!