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Little Theatre’s “Alice in iLand”

Chasing the rabbit

Anusha Parthasarathy

 

VIRTUAL WONDERLAND A scene from ‘Alice in iLand’

Contemporary twists to a classic tale — the pantomime Alice in iLand, staged by the Little Theatre, was entertaining all the way

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, as I’m scribbling on a grimy notepad, developing kung fu-like reflexes to stop people from peeping into my notes, I realise fate is out to get me. I sit, pokerfaced, expecting to analyse The Little Theatre’s ‘Alice in iLand’ seriously. But as it begins, I realise I’m fighting a losing battle.

The play starts with the spotlight on Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, dressed in floral prints, shorts and hot pink ties, who are out to search for Alice (aa-li-s, in French, apparently) to save Placebook from being taken over by a virus. The duo, Venkatesh Harinathan who reminded one of comedian Santhanam-meets-Mr.Bean, and a serious Abishek Joseph, go on a hilarious journey to France, where Alice the maid, with her high-pitched voice and French accent, is sweeping the floor.

They summon the iFairy (Abhijatha Umesh) through a magic song: “Where is good fairy, good fairy, good fairy di?” and the jalabulajals (Venkatesh’s term for any situation) takes them into the complex world of Placebook where Alice and the brothers go separate ways in search of the White Rabbit. Alice travels with Doodle Chrome (a lime-green superman with a Chrome logo) who is “faster than light” and the brothers follow a nine-yard-wearing-Ambujam-maami-like Ninternet Explorer, who travels on a skateboard with handlebars.

Meanwhile, White Rabbit, played superbly by Satyajith Prabhu, reaches the palace of the Red Queen (Mrithula Chetlur) to announce their evil scheme, which will allow the queen to control all of Placebook. Both characters derive from the classic, with the rabbit’s panic attacks, whereby he screeches ‘I’ll kill you’ and the red queen’s signature line, ‘Off with their heads’. A special mention, of course, is to Minime, the red queen’s kid sister, haughty and spoilt, played well by Dhrthi Bhat.

Alice and the brothers reach the royal kitchen, where the cook (Shalini Vijayakumar), who vents her anger against the queen through her status messages, tells them to meet the Duchess in the garden. The incredibly tall Duchess Pinky Poo (the pantomime Dame), who enters under dazzling pink lights, flirts with bald men and carries the rest of the play on her shoulders (or his, since she is played by Naveen Krishna G), with her cheery bounce and saucy duet with villain Jabberwachowsky (a very kano-from-mortal-kombatish character by director, scriptwriter and stage choreographer Krishna Kumar Balasubramanian). Pinky Poo decides to help Alice stop Jabberwachowsky from taking over Placebook.

We meet a rather benevolent Mad Hackker (Akriti Sachdev) who falls in love with Alice, the Red Queen’s bumbling guards, a bunch of adorable little mushrooms (played by three to five-year-olds) in a garden where Pinky Poo waltzes in, a digital cat who has amnesia, musical cats (a trio, much like Josie and the Pussycats), a rather funny caterpillar (Sabarish Menon), Dormouse and March Hare (Archna Kinger and Aarti Kinger) and the ‘clean sweep’ Sweetpea.

The costumes are simple but effective, but one doesn’t totally understand why the caterpillar is clothed in a shimmering red sherwani.

The song and dance sequences are good. Alice (Darshana Rajendran) not only speaks with a good French accent but also has a fine voice. The make-up isn’t too much, except perhaps the blush on Pinky Poo’s and Alice’s cheeks. The script is realistic for the most part.

Verdict for the evening? My eyes are watering, my stomach is aching from laughing out loud and my serious note-taking stops midway. I rest my case.

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