Alice: The Lost Chapter – 5 Stars


Alice: The Lost Chapter

Blue Elephant Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd October 2018


“Movement is contorted and manic, but also clever, imaginative, and precise”


Since its publication in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has been adapted dozens of times. While the adult themes of the children’s book are widely acknowledged, Joelene English’s modern dance piece, Alice: The Lost Chapter, delves into the darker side of the story. She explores Alice’s troubled subconscious and subverts other familiar characters, presenting us with a straight-jacketed Mad Hatter, a pained, grimacing Cheshire cat and an anxious, tense White Rabbit.

English’s production combines dance, physical theatre and film, to create an unflinchingly dark and atmospheric piece. Alison Ashton’s gorgeous set, reminiscent of a Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro film, sets the nightmarish tone perfectly. Mismatched wooden furniture, a closet with a staircase of drawers, a cobweb-shrouded picture frame, an eerie dressing table and a writing desk containing different sized doors become a dark and whimsical playground for the disturbed characters. The stunning video projections complete the effect, making the atmosphere of the piece utterly engrossing.

English’s choreography draws on contemporary experimental physical theatre rather than traditional dance. It is aggressively and persistently confrontational and uncomfortable for its audience. Movement is contorted and manic, but also clever, imaginative, and precise, while the decidedly unmusical soundscape is jarring and strange.

Alicia Meehan’s Alice hovers between the wide-eyed curiosity we associate with the character and a more unsettling, obsessive watchfulness. English has given her some gorgeously haunting choreography – we often see her in the background dangling in a closet or precariously perched on set pieces. The other characters frantically guide Alice through this ‘wonderland’, scuttling or twitching their way around the stage.

The overarching effect of the piece is that of a disjointed and hypnotic dream. Several moments, however, stand out. The Mad Hatter’s tea party is fiercely anxious. The four characters scramble desperately around the table before freezing in contorted positions then melting away. In the opening sequence Alice is seated as the Red Queen stands behind her doing her hair. What begins as a slightly uncomfortable maternal scene, quickly evolves into a display of desperate obsession and control. The queen then disappears for the remainder of the piece. In Meehan’s final haunting solo, she dances with a bright red dress, reminding us of the Queen’s absence and creating an agonising sense of loneliness and longing.

English’s Alice is ultimately a harrowing, challenging commentary on mental health. Carroll’s world makes for the perfect, twisted backdrop upon which the subconscious mind can come to life through movement. As with any excellent piece of theatre, Alice forces its audience to confront itself. It is simultaneously beautiful and grotesque, captivating and deeply painful. The mesmerising piece is gripping from start to finish and will be hard to shake from the memory.


Reviewed for


Blue Elephant

Alice: The Lost Chapter

Blue Elephant Theatre


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Sisyphus Distressing | ★★★★ | March 2018
Boxman | ★★★★ | July 2018
My Brother’s Drug | ★★★ | October 2018


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