Damon Albarn's new musical wonder.land transports Lewis Carroll's Alice to a digital landscape

Damon Albarn’s new musical wonder.land transports Lewis Carroll’s Alice to a digital landscape

Is it all a Blur? That’s a pun you may hear frequently in relation to the musical theatre debut of the seminal 1990s band’s frontman, Damon Albarn, which opened in Manchester last night.

wonder.land is Albarn’s digital-age take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Lewis Carroll children’s classic celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Albarn has already had critical composing success with two operas – like wonder.land, both premiered at the Manchester International Festival – 2007’s Monkey: Journey to the West and 2011’s Doctor Dee.

wonder.land reunites him with Dee director Rufus Norris who has since taken over at the National Theatre, where wonder.land will receive its London premiere in November.

By which time it may have been tweaked – and that’s another way of saying, if you’ve already booked your tickets, don’t be too rattled by this morning’s decidedly lukewarm reviews (pretty much three stars across the board), which I’ve rounded up, along with some interesting news and features articles. New musicals are a movable feast and there’s still plenty of time for this one to adjust the menu.

wonder.land continues at the Manchester International Festival until 12 July 2015 and, following dates at Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet, transfers to London’s National Theatre from 27 November 2015.

What the papers – and others – say



Libby Purves: Down the rabbit hole… Fifty minutes in, we got a 30ft yodelling falsetto caterpillar with flashing saucer eyes, and I cheered up.


Mark Shenton: There’s a lot to beguile, and some to perplex, in this world premiere of a musical that’s already headed for further runs in London and Paris


Patrick Marmion: A blur… I could have done without the moralising social realism. A more total immersion in the digital fantasy version of Carroll’s classic would have been a greater escape.


Dominic Cavendish: It’s a brain-teasing riddle – How could so much talent, so much theatrical potential and so much technological innovation produce a new musical so lacking in the wonder stuff?


Michael Billington: This bold and ambitious reimagining of Alice in Wonderland for the online age boasts a score from the Blur frontman – but ends up a little oversaturated.

TIME OUT – ★★★

Andrzej Lukowski: Short of picking up the book, gobbling LSD and hoping for the best, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland adapted with such trippy elan.


Sarah Walters: Surreal, silly, super charged with energy: wonder.land, the musical chosen to formally open this year’s Manchester International Festival, is a triumph. A dizzying spectacle …


Jonathan Scofield: Get tickets for this, it’s tremendous fun. The teenagers can go too, they’ll love it. A rollicking good laugh with occasional dark interludes…


Glenn Meads: If you want to see something unique and totally bonkers that your kids can relate to, where past and present are cleverly merged, then this is a trip worth taking.

THE GAY UK – ★★★★

Richard Glen: Lewis Carroll purists may very well hate it but plenty other will relate to its warmth, wit and the timeless themes under the hi tech surface.


Iain Sykes: Visually, wonder.land the musical is a huge, gorgeous assault on the senses. Musically, it feels as though it could be stronger and once the manic, pacy, surrealism has gone, it fades…


Kevin Bourke: Mostly the music was pretty dull, and this is the show’s essential problem Can it be fixed before moving on to London and Paris? Almost certainly.


Damon Albarn on How Alice in Wonderland Haunted His Childhood

Damon Albarn has co-written a musical version of Alice in Wonderland, which takes a trip down a modern-day rabbit hole…

Damon Albarn’s Musical Will be ‘a Little Controversial’

Singer Damon Albarn has predicted his Alice in Wonderland-inspired musical will prove “a little controversial” when it opens in Manchester. The Blur frontman has written the music…

Albarn Travelled to North Korea for Musical Research

The Blur frontman has written a new stage version of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and he originally planned for the show to be set in the heavily militarised…

Albarn Joins VIPs at Opening Night of Wonder.land

Manchester International Festival got off to a colourful start with the world premiere of new Damon Albarn musical Wonder.land at the Palace Theatre. Blur star Damon has penned the music in…

Adventures Kick Off in Manchester with Albarn’s Musical

It is more than a century since Benjamin Disraeli remarked that “what Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow” and that desire to innovate and experiment remains…

Watch an Exclusive Wonder.land Trailer

wonder.land is a new musical inspired by Alice in Wonderland. It has music by Damon Albarn, lyrics by Moira Buffini and is directed by National Theatre’s Rufus Norris. In the show, Lewis…


After 150 Years, Alice in Wonderland Still Feeds Heads

It’s 150 years since a hookah-smoking caterpillar sitting on a mushroom asked a curious young girl called Alice “Who are you?” and readers have been wondering the same thing ever…

How to draw… Alice in Wonderland

As part of our 150 years of Alice in Wonderland celebrations, Dan Taylor has a step-by-step guide for younger children on how to draw the girl who fell down the rabbit hole…