Wonderland | Lexx ProductionsLeft – Alexandra Howard and Samuel Doyle

I really wanted to like Wonderland. I love small plays with small casts telling small stories – and what is smaller than the intimate intricacies of a romantic relationship? The fantastical side of the story really appealed to me as well, and as I sat down in the theatre and looked at the beautiful set, I felt a genuine frisson of excitement go through me.

I was really, really sad when the show did not deliver. Unfortunately, I found Wonderland long-winded, self-indulgent, and, to be brutally honest, banal.

Wonderland follows Lucy (Alexandra Howard) and Max (Samuel Doyle) as they meet, fall in love, and fall apart. Considering that this is a play very much driven by character and not by plot, both of them are strangely opaque. We get very little sense of who they are as people. We know Lucy has friends and Max doesn’t, and that Max wants Lucy to be with him always and not to see said friends, but that’s… it, really. Neither of them seem to be terribly interesting people. I had no idea how they managed to fall in love, let alone have enough conflict to fall apart.

I don’t think the storytelling method helped the play’s case much. Wonderland took the “show, don’t tell” rule and smashed it to smithereens. Max and Lucy interacted with each surprisingly rarely, considering the play was about their relationship: instead, they narrated their feelings and pontificated on life and love and loss to the audience, who was serving as a kind of glorified therapist. This was boring, frankly. I found it very difficult to pay attention, largely because I had no emotional attachment to either character and didn’t really care about their feelings.

It is totally possible to make drama about unlikeable characters, and to do it well. It would even be possible to make a successful drama about two unlikeable characters who fall in love and fall apart. But Wonderland is not that drama. Max and Lucy aren’t only unlikeable, they’re uninteresting. Max has shades of Edward Cullen – he says that Lucy is his addiction, echoing that famous vampire’s claim that Bella is his own personal brand of heroin – while Lucy was perpetually on the edge of tears, for some reason or another. All they ever do is talk about their feelings (usually not to each other), and it gets old really fast.

They’re both terribly earnest characters, which I suppose is quite accurate – I’m guessing they’re supposed to be in their early 20s, and I remember being terribly earnest about love when I was that age (all of five years ago). But despite this, they’re impossible to relate to, because they’re both such wet blankets. One of the statues on the set looked like it was flipping them off, and it was hard not to agree with it.

Wonderland repeatedly invoked fairy tales as a kind of mirror to its own love story. The invocation of Wonderland as the private, happy spaces of their relationship I found a little strange – surely Alice’s happy ending came when she escaped from Wonderland? – but I was willing to roll with it. What was more problematic was the use of the figure of the fairytale hero and princess as a mirror to Max and Lucy’s relationship. One important element of the fairy tale memeplex was missing in Wonderland – the obstacle. There was no reason that Max and Lucy couldn’t be together, no complication that drove them apart, no barrier to overcome. There was no quest. There was just two people meeting, making out, and then proceeding to break down at each other a lot for no apparent reason. It felt like a whole part of the story was missing.

Also, I’m not sure why all three sex scenes were choreographed in exactly the same way, but they looked awkward and mechanical. By the time the third one rolled around, the fact that they were identical was kind of funny, which I’m guessing was not the intent.

The set for this show is beautiful, and it’s very visually appealing. I just wish that Wonderland had more than surface appeal.

Lexx Productions presents

Venue: Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre
Dates: 9 – 12 April, 2014
Tickets: $39 – $35
Bookings: 9351 7940 | www.seymourcentre.com

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