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MIF: Damon Albarn's New Alice In Wonderland Musical

Wonder.land will debut at the Manchester International Festival in July

Written by . Published on January 22nd 2015.

MIF: Damon Albarn's New Alice In Wonderland Musical

DAMON Albarn will unveil his third Manchester International Festival (MIF) project at this year's festival - a new musical based on Alice in Wonderland to mark the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carrol's classic novel.

"I’m fascinated by the idea of going down a rabbit hole, the otherworldliness and what that might mean."

The Grammy and Brit Award-winning musician, frontman of Britpop champions Blur and virtual electronic collective Gorillaz, premiered his first opera at the Palace Theatre for MIF back in 2007 with Monkey: Journey to the West, and his second back at The Palace in 2011 with Dr Dee.

Titled wonder.land (2-12 July), the new commission has seen Albarn once again team up with National Theatre Director and Dr Dee collaborator, Rufus Norris, alongside Olivier-Award winning author and playwright, Moira Buffini.

The new musical revolves around 12-year-old Aly, bullied at school and downbeat at home, Aly becomes the beautiful and brave Alice in an extraordinary online world where she'll come across the strange Dum and Dee, the creepy Cheshire Cat and the terrifying Red Queen.

Tickets £18-£45 go on sale today (Thursday 22 January)

wonder.land marketing graphic


Albarn hinted at the project back in July 2014 when he told the Daily Star: "It’s funny for me to say ‘I’m writing a musical’, but yes, that’s what I’m doing next. [It] was going to be a left field, experimental opera, but it's lurched into a mainstream musical for families."

Following the wonder.land announcement, Albarn said:

"I’m fascinated by the idea of going down a rabbit hole, the otherworldliness and what that might mean. Alice aside, The Queen of Hearts, The Duchess, White Rabbit, Caterpillar were the most threatening characters of my childhood. I was genuinely very frightened of them as a kid, which is probably why I was interested when Alex Poots suggested a reworking."

Alex Poots, MIF's founding CEO and Artistic Director (who'll leave after this year's festival to begin a role at New York's new $400m Culture Shed), said:

“In Alice in Wonderland we have found something I have been looking for for some time: an inspiration that is both curiously and eccentrically English and yet has a universal currency. It is the perfect combination for this fantastic creative team and for Manchester International Festival.”

Damon Albarn performing at Victoria WarehouseDamon Albarn performing at Victoria Warehouse

Albarn will join Professor Brian Cox's The Age of Starlight, Jamie XX's Tree of Codes and CBeebies' Mr Tumble at this year's festival (read here), as well as a new theatrical co-commission between MIF and Manchester's new £25m arts centre HOME.

wonder.land is designed by Rae Smith, with projections by 59 Productions and lighting by Paule Constable, the design team behind War Horse.

Following its premiere at Manchester International Festival 2015, wonder.land will visit the NT’s Olivier Theatre in November 2015 and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2016.

wonder.land will show at the Palace Theatre from 2-12 July.

Tickets £18-£45 will go on public sale at 11.30am on Thurs 22 Jan.


The Regional Connection 

The author of Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dodgson was born in Daresbury in 1832, 20 miles south west of Manchester - a little beyond Warrington. He was the third of eleven children and he lived in Daresbury until he was 11 when his father, a High Anglican vicar, got a better position in North Yorkshire. At 12 Dodgson was sent off to Rugby School. His family background on the male side was military or ecclesiastical – his grandfather was killed in action in Ireland in 1803. Dodgson suffered from a stammer from an early age, however, his time at home in Cheshire seems a happy time before he went to public school which wasn’t a happy time at all. 

As for the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, well, the North West is the most diverse region geographically in the UK and this is the reason for the range of the food products it produces. From lowland Cheshire to the drained peat marshes of Lancashire, from Pennine moors to Lakeland mountains, from tidal estuaries to great cities, it is all here.

Even the climate plays its part. A propensity for precipitation gives the North West some of the richest diary pastures on the planet.

That is why Cheshire man Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland included that Cheshire cat with the cheesiest of grins. It’s the cat that got the cream, a happy cat, a smug puss. There’s a late medieval carving in Grappenhall church, close to Daresbury, which features a grinning cat that apparently Dodgson knew about as well. 

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Simon TurnerJanuary 22nd 2015.

Albarn again? Teacher's pet.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGJanuary 22nd 2015.

And why not? He does a good job.

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2015.

Zzzzz...MIF line-up's not looking great so far this year.

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2015.

MIF is looking great so far. I would like to see another club night like Despacio last time, that was brill.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2015.

Despacio was totes awesome. It was so warm in there I had to dance barefoot whilst wearing just my hot pants.

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2015.

Despacio was on another level.

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2015.

Another level? I thought it was on the ground floor!

David BlakeJanuary 22nd 2015.

Agreed. Despacio was fantastic, needed to climax, mind: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Despacio-MIF-2013-Reviewed-Manchester…

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 23rd 2015.

I did that whilst dancing to the eclectic axis of awesome they were pumping out.

AnonymousJanuary 25th 2015.

What are 'richest diary pastures'?

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