Alice in Funderland | The Abbey Theatre
Star Rating: 4.5/5
Review by: Michael McDermott
Alice in Funderland finishes May 12th at the Abbey Theatre
Alice is slumped on a garishly pink chaise lounge in Cork. A portrait of Michael Collins hangs on the wall. Her sister Susan who is about to get married is stressing her out over dress colours and luxury bottled water. Her dad is off golfing. There's more than a whiff of Montenotte off it all. Alice's cheating boyfriend recently died after choking on a peanut. He had Anaphlylaxis "and every other slut in the city" as Susan says. She's stressed and depressed and longs for escape. Next thing we find Alice in Dublin, the Funderland of the title.
The first musical to be staged in the Abbey in over 20 years is a rollicking affair. It's Philip McMahon's (writer) biggest curtain call to date and teaming up with director Wayne Jordan and composer Raymond Scannell, he delivers a thrillingly madcap spectacle anchored with sensitivity.
Alice encounters pramfaces, a suicidal roller-skating gay, a hooker, a Damien Dempsey taxi driving ballader and hilariously condescending daytime chat show hosts - your regular day in Dublin really. Her mission is to find Warren, the man of her nightclub dreams, who is about to be married to the daughter of the Queen of Hartstown.
Alice (Sarah Greene), who is almost always on stage, is lost in her pursuit to be found. Sympathetic to her curiouser and curiouser plight, belief is suspended as we willingly freewheel ever closer to her moment of destiny.
Elsewhere, the cast rises to giddy heights with the delightfully unhinged Duchess (Ruth McGill), the dragtastic Delores, The Queen of Hartstown (Tony Flynn) and the multi-faceted roles played with menace and genius by Kathy Rose O'Brien and Mark O'Regan. Paul Reid (The Gay) chews up and bubble gum pops every scene he's in with masterful mirth.
With a five piece band visible behind an inspiring scene-changing LED curtain, the set adopts to the transformational madness of each moment. For a world so fresh and original, Alice is not without its flaws. There's a few pacing blips especially at the start of the second half and a brilliantly conceived but strayed execution of a scene with the convicted Scissor Sisters killers.
However, the heart of this thoughtful nonsense is always in the right place. It's a dream come true for a new generation of playwrights and actors not to be stuck in a Sean O'Casey timewarp. Alice is now and very relevant. Everyone deserves to be brought to, or pushed down, this rabbit hole.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 5th April 2012 | Theatre
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