Alice's Dublin adventure is a surreal blast

Chris Wasser

She hasn't a clue where she is, like. Where is the rest of the hen party? Was that white rabbit of hers -- a Dublin delivery man called Warren -- telling the truth? It seems the only thing that Cork lass Alice is sure of is that she's in love. Which is why she needs to get to Hartstown.

Bewilderment is nothing new, for Alice in Funderland's source material is hardly logical. A musical in which our young explorer loses her way around a vibrant and nightmarish Dublin city may sound ridiculous, yet, that quickly becomes its appeal. Even if some of the surreal elements of this sharp and often hilarious production are a little too slippery to grasp.

Commissioned by THISISPOPBABY and directed by Wayne Jordan, Alice in Funderland excels in presenting a warped, colourful combination of electro-pop shindigs, leather get-ups, touching ballads, and a camped-up Queen of Hartstown (the outstanding Tony Flynn).

If it's a little difficult to keep up, it's because of the enormity of a production that makes full use of all its cast members, not to mention a superb lighting and stage crew that have gone way beyond the call of duty to ensure that the first Abbey Theatre musical in more than 20 years leaves its mark.

Unsurprisingly, the Funderland in which Alice, a delightful Sarah Greene, loses her way is a twisted and scary place. But fun and visually spectacular.

A Damien Dempsey impersonator drives a taxi; a gay man ('The Gay') steals the show on a pair of roller skates, and afternoon tea is televised. In fact, its downfall is that there is perhaps too much going on.

At least half an hour of this 160-minute offering could have been cut, with various set-pieces not quite sitting as well as others.

A hit-and-miss soundtrack is saved by the pure exuberance of its performers. As a whole, it just about works; its ambitious premise and excellent production values holding up a musical that is every bit as peculiar as its quirky title suggests. HHHII

Running at the Abbey Theatre until May 12