Vancouver theater troupe Geekenders brought the heat and glam in an immersive performance of a classic tale
Rachel D’Sa // Editor-in-Chief
Alice in Glitterland, presented by Geekenders, was sheer madness. In true Lewis Carroll fashion, the performance brought forth chaos, disarray, wonder and charm. The immersive performance, which ran from Sept. 6-14 as a part of Fringe Festival, threw audience members into a retro-glam world of theatre and cabaret. Though Geekenders has previously put on fun and unique productions, this completely sold-out take on the classic Alice In Wonderland was on a new scale for the theatre troupe. The multi-room performance, with a cast of just 12 actors, included 93 individual scenes and contained over eight and a half hours of discoverable content.
The show started in the line to East Vancouver’s WISE Hall. A playful and approachable conversation about consent during the performance took place, as we were instructed to choose white or red masks to wear, which indicated our physical boundaries.
Entering the venue, we were greeted with a holographic hallway that led us into a haunting, dimly lit room. Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” played under the chatter. Filled with chandeliers and white-painted-red roses, the venue buzzed with excitement and curiosity.
Soon after, everything went dark. The curtains were drawn by performers on the other side of the barrier, revealing the rest of Glitterland. The white rabbit (Jordan Svenkeson) and Alice (Lyndsey Britten) danced on stage. In a hypnotic way, we were drawn to walk towards them in a bed of fog, symbolizing Alice’s descent into the mad world. On the floor gracefully moved the rest of the cast (to a soundtrack that I would like to petition to have posted on Spotify).
There was a lot of room for error. Given the nature of the performance and the amount of movement between performers and the sold-out crowd, I braced myself to see performers breaking character. The crowd melted in the hands of each performer that laid eyes on them. The seamlessness and elegance of the 70-minute performance led me to feel that I was in a dream at times. Fragile dishes, tea and cookies were flung about swiftly, even when multiple performers were stomping, crawling and jumping on the same wooden table center stage. Full-bodied dance numbers continuously took place in every room. Those in floor-length gowns and extravagant floral headpieces didn’t fumble through the complex choreography.
From being pulled onto the stage for a tea party to challenging The Red Queen (Isabella Halladay) in flamingo croquet, we the voyeurs chose our own adventure. While eyeing a giant martini glass adorning a dazzling pole dance number, or emotion-packed banter between characters, I found that I missed a few plot points. This, however, is the beauty of the show. No one audience member experienced the show in the same way, which allowed for them to return to Glitterland for a new adventure.
The feminist, diverse, body-positive theatre troupe includes performers of all sexualities and genders. Fairlith Harvey, the writer/director of the production, intended to break down the phrase “we’re all mad here” and explore what living and loving with mental illness looks like.
“A popular buzzphrase is that if you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else,” said Harvey in a press release. “But after interviewing dozens of neuro-divergent people, and looking inside myself too, I know that isn’t true. Every single person I spoke to is devoted to loving as fiercely as they are able to, regardless of what despair they feel within themselves.”
I was given glimpses into each character’s sense of confusion, rage, loneliness and urge to love and nurture in the glamourous yet disordered environment. The canon of goodbyes to Alice as the show came to a close pulled everything together in a moment of unity. Maybe it was my back pain or my thirstiness that left me close to tears while watching Alice’s departure from Glitterland. However, I think in this case, I have to hand it to the Geekenders for powerfully entertaining the idea that love and beauty persists, no matter how broken things seem.