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Adelaide Fringe 2013

Alice in the Madhouse

Madhouse Circus

Genre: Physical Theatre

Venue: The Birdcage - Arcade Lane, Adelaide


Low Down

The story is one everyone knows but the way it’s played out is entirely innovative, daring, and fresh. Seven young circus artists tumble, twirl, flip, and cartwheel all over the stage and on the apparatus to recreate Wonderland in a macabre fashion that is fascinating and awesome.


From the start the audience knows that this won’t be the bedtime story version of Alice in Wonderland—the opening scene is a typical dysfunctional family dinner and Alice is lost and confused. Suddenly a white rabbit appears and Alice follows him down the rabbit hole where she finds herself in a madhouse where the masked patients regard her suspiciously. Alice sees similarities between them and her own family, but these people are much more exotic and mysterious. 

Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum provided comic relief, as did the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party; the caterpillar hypnotised the audience as she shimmied up a piece of rope and performed astounding aerial acrobatics, but it was the Queen of Heart’s court that stood out. The seductive, dangerous, beautifully choreographed performance and amazing dexterity on the aerial hoop was a memorable scene that reiterated the mood for the entire show.

The performance was accompanied by a dynamic soundtrack that reverberated the energy and electricity in the arena. The variety of contraptions used to execute the breath-taking acrobatics was well received by the audience, although during some scenes the dramatically different choreography and calisthenics created confusion and lack of focus. The illusion of the wonderland-madhouse was also broken at times when the actors used their voice to react rather than their bodies.

However, these discrepancies were soon forgotten as the lighting signalled the ensuing scene and the tumbling and twirling continued. It was a vibrant, energetic performance with many daredevil stunts that had the audience on edge, but each feat received resounding applause. This show is a sophisticated contemporary twist on the story of Alice in Wonderland that features exceptional physical theatre and circus acts.