A three-metre-tall storybook is wheeled onto the main stage of Modhesh World every night and as a funky soundtrack kicks in, out jump out Alice, The Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.
Children run towards the stage at the venue, in Dubai World Trade Centre, and sit on the small colourful chairs that surround it while parents head to the food trucks to get some dinner.
A blast from the smoke machine on stage signals the start of The Big Story, a 90-minute retelling of Alice and Wonderland designed to spark the imagination of the young audience through dramatic storytelling. It is being staged everyday until August 27.
The show, which combines circus tricks with contemporary dance, is part of the activities in support of the UAE’s Year of Reading, a government initiative to instil a passion for books among young people, in particular.
“The concept of the show stems from popular children’s novels,” says Adam Carr, the managing director of Aura Consultancy, which created the show. “We chose Alice in Wonderland because it is one of the most iconic children’s tales -but we have restructured it with elaborate costumes and circus performances.”
Kate Brown, a Dubai-based choreographer who designed the dance moves for the production’s nine-member cast, says the story gave her the opportunity to showcase the skills of the artists, who come from all over the world.
“I wanted to give everyone a certain character and match them with the talent of each artist,” says Brown. “So we have Tweddledum and Tweedledee doing perch acrobatics on a big wheel, our Cheshire cat is doing aerial rope and Alice will show a lot of her ballet and contemporary dance moves.”
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But the show isn’t just for kids – it has been created so that parents will find some aspects appealing, too.
“The show is primarily for children but it slightly goes the adult way, as well,” says Brown.
“With children, my aim has been to make this a sort of a dream and all magical. But there are some more mature parts, like the tea-party scene, which becomes quite dramatic, right from the music to the costumes and dance moves.”
The minimalistic set contrasts with flashy visuals of mushrooms and tea cups on a big screen, and the dance routines spotlighted during the show.
The tea party routine begins with the The Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse sitting around a large spray-painted table. As the song Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics plays, Alice spins around on stage, presenting her pointe technique on top of the table.
Kate Sparkhall, who plays Alice, says the show allows her to tap into her quirky side.
“It’s really nice because you can be a little crazy and over the top with this role,” says the British actor, who is performing in Dubai for the first time. “You can go from being really happy to being really sad. Alice in Wonderland has a rollercoaster of emotions.”
The tea party is her favourite part of the show.
“The tea party gets really dark and Alice gets sucked into it,” she says. “And there are lots of things happening. We have hand balancing, and there are different tricks and lifts, which is good fun.”
Carr says they tried to bring a level of sophistication to the production, while keeping it fun.
“We took a lot of care in getting costumes that are well-tailored and suits that have these dark shades of burgundy and maroons, but at the same time there is a playfulness to them,” he says. “Even the make-up is quite elaborate. We just want the children and adults to be engaged and inspire creativity through the show.”
• The Big Story will be performed twice a day – at 9pm and 10.30pm – at Modhesh World in Dubai World Trade Centre until August 27. Tickets to Modhesh World cost Dh20. Visit www.mymodheshworld.com
Source: art & life