There is no doubt that Lewis Carroll’s classic childhood tale has an everlasting popularity, over 150 years since its first publication, in 1865. Alice has been recreated in approximately 60 literary retellings, 40 films and over 30 stage adaptations, including Welsh National Opera’s recent staging of Will Todd’s opera Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, performed at Dyffryn Gardens and Wales Millennium Centre.
The first film, renowned for its use of special effects premiered in 1903, however the most iconic film of Alice in Wonderland was Disney’s 1951 musical animation. In a more recent adaptation (2010), the film was recreated by director Tim Burton who transformed it into a darker fantasy adventure film which received praise for its musical score, visual style and extravagant costumes. In 1985, a 5 episode TV adaptation was created, inspired by the early productions of Alice, this light-hearted version even features the use of puppets alongside a real-life Alice.
Before these film and TV versions of the tale, stage adaptations proved popular. As early as 1886, Henry Clarke requested Carroll’s approval to adapt Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland into a musical stage show, which set a precedent in later years for writers to recreate the story into theatre productions and musicals. Clarke certainly reshaped the originality of the novel, with a recreated musical element in his version including the transformation of rhymes and texts into songs and lyrics, developing a lively pantomime effect to the retelling, that would appeal to all ages.
Following on from this musical theme, in more recent years Victorian Opera in Melbourne have created two works starring Alice. They consist of creative productions named Alice’s Adventures in Operaland (2015), and Alice Through the Opera Glass (2019). The plays see Alice in this instance entering the fantasy world of opera, a fantastic recreation of the story intended to engage and introduce children to the joys of opera.
Alice’s story was also recreated by the National Theatre, into a modern day fantasy world in a production named ‘wonder.land’, inspired by todays digital world. Alice is captivated here to the online virtual world of ‘wonder.land’, with spectacular digitally inspired set designs, the rabbit hole is a brand new virtual world which is certainly a contrast to Carroll’s original setting of the 19th Century classic.
It’s not just on stage and page that the acclaimed story is celebrated, in 1959 a statue of Alice and noteworthy characters such as the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter was placed in New York City’s Central Park.
From New York to Wales, one of WNO’s touring locations, Llandudno features a sculpture trail of Alice in Wonderland characters, in commemoration of Carroll’s classic tale. It is speculated that Llandudno was a location in which the real-life Alice Liddell once visited, the character that inspired Carroll’s character of Alice which would become a remarkable story recognised worldwide.