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Prologue: The Dark Room / Alice into the Camera Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) is working on a new photograph of the young Alice, who is sitting in her favourite chair, and beginning to feel rather sleepy from having to sit still for so long. While he is working with the camera Charles is telling her a story to keep her amused when, quite out of the blue, a white rabbit dashes into the scene and slips into the camera through the lens. Before she’s realised what she’s doing, Alice follows after him. No sooner is she through the aperture than she finds herself in free-fall, tumbling toward heaven knows what as a strange combination of objects rush past her and she gives herself up to whatever this new adventure may bring.

Scene 2 Inside the Camera Alice bumps to a halt and finds herself in a corridor with many doors leading from it; she tries each one but cannot open them. The White Rabbit appears again and Alice attempts to follow it but is distracted by the discovery a bottle and a box - each marked ‘drink me’ and ‘eat me’ respectively - she tries their contents as she is now feeling rather hungry and thirsty after her fall. Out of the shadows walks a strange man carrying an axe - his facial features concealed. Alice is frightened but suddenly Charles is with her and she clings to him for protection. The man passes by without noticing them and Alice, as much in relief as in fear, begins to cry uncontrollably; nothing Charles can do consoles her, and slowly the camera fills with the water of her tears. Before it’s too late, the walls of the machine give way under the pressure and the water subsides. The White Rabbit reappears, and provides the two soaked adventurers with an abundance of towels with which to dry off. Alice then discovers that the water has shrunk her enough to fit through the little door at the back of the camera, and she passes into an enchanted garden.

Scene 3 The Garden of Live Flowers / The Tango Lesson Alice encounters four beautiful flowers – a Rose, and Violet, a Daisy and a Tiger-lily – whose strangely hypnotic movements lull her into a state of drowsiness from which Charles rouses her, rescuing her from the potentially deadly charm of these exotic flora. She is led by the Rabbit to another part of the Garden where she discovers a very odd kind of Caterpillar, lounging in a sort of reverie under a giant mushroom. Roused by her presence, he attempts to teach her to dance the Tango but she tries his patience and eventually he gives up the task, returning to smoke his hookah under the mushroom. Charles is suddenly with her again and reassures her that she’s actually not doing too badly in this new world which doesn’t always seem to make perfect sense.

Scene 4 In the Duchess’s Kitchen Alice now finds herself in a very hot and steamy kitchen in which an elegant lady is nursing a baby while the cook bashes about over the stove in a furious temper. A crescent moon which looks remarkably like a wide toothy grin appears at the high window and a moment later in slinks a very glamorous cat. The ladies all fuss over the baby until the Cook, having lulled the others into a false sense of security, throws it into the oven, causing a huge row during which the Cat escapes and the Duchess decides it’s all too much and retires for her beauty sleep. Alice reclaims the baby from the oven but finds it has turned into a piglet, but the Cat returns and reassures her that the little creature will survive.

Scene 5 The Queen’s Croquet Ground Alice decides to accompany the Cat and the White Rabbit who are on their way to the croquet game being hosted by the Queen of Hearts, and on their way they encounter the 2, 5 and 7 of Hearts who are in a panic over planting the wrong colour roses in the Queens’ gardens. Apparently, the Queen likes her roses red, and they have planted white ones by mistake and are in the throes of trying to paint them before the Queen and her Court arrive for the game, lest they lose their heads to the Jabberwock – the Court Executioner. The Queen has a penchant for ordering the heads of her subjects to be removed at the merest whim. The Royal Party arrives and the blunder discovered, but when the Queen and King meet Alice she so charms them that the King persuades the Queen to relent and pardon the guilty Cards. Alice is invited to join the festivities and the game, which is played out to grand waltz from the royal orchestra, begins.

Scene 6 The Mock Turtle’s Story / The Lobster Quadrille After the game, the Queen and her sister the Duchess take Alice to meet the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, who are entertainers at the ‘end of the pier show’ on the beach. These two, however, are down on their luck and the failing popularity of their act has reduced them to busking beneath the pier, the Gryphon hoofing to the mournful strains of the Turtle’s muted trumpet. They relate their sad tale to Alice, but rally to cheer things up with a splendid rendition of the Lobster Quadrille, in which everyone joins. At the height of the dance the scene abruptly evaporates and Alice, feeling rather confused by her adventures so far, seeks comfort in Charles’s company.

Scene 1 The Wandering Alice is with Charles, floating in a dreamlike limbo as familiar figures from her recent adventures drift in and out of focus.

Scene 2 The Tea Party Alice finds herself apparently invited to tea with a very odd assortment of characters – a Hatter, a March Hare and a very sleepy Dormouse. Their antics seem to make no sense at all and just as she’s becoming exasperated with the situation, the scene dissolves.

Scene 3 Strange Insects Retreating from the madness of the Tea Party Alice stumbles from one uncomfortable scene into another as four strange mutations of the insect world pursue her. Charles comes to her rescue though, and together they escape the stinging, biting creatures.

Scene 4 Humpty Dumpty / The Jabberwock Suddenly alone again and finding her path blocked by a huge brick wall, Alice sees a curious figure climb over it and drop down beside her. This new acquaintance appears to be half baby/half egg, and not at all like anything she’s ever seen before. His odd behaviour does seem to fall in with everything else that has been happening since she tumbled into this strange place, and so Alice gives up trying to make sense of things and decides to tag along with this bizarre new playmate. Humpty Dumpty (for it is he) shows Alice some words she’s never seen before, written on a series of cards, and they seem to conjure the terrifying figure who has been haunting Alice since she fell into this strange world – the Jabberwock! He appears faceless at first – anonymous and wielding his terrible axe – but Charles subdues him and persuades him to unmask himself. Humpty has been quietly trembling in the corner but his curiosity gets the better of him and he draws nearer to confront his fear of this dangerous-looking man. Emboldened by the reassuring presence of Charles, the two are reconciled and wander off together to begin a new friendship.

Scene 5 Alice and Charles Alone together, Alice and Charles talk about all that has happened and Charles suddenly realises that she is learning from all her recent experiences and growing up fast. Through the ‘story’ he is telling her, that she is living in, he has given her the chance to discover more about herself and that she shouldn’t necessarily believe all she is taught by her elders. Sometimes the world around her doesn’t make sense and can be a claustrophobic place, and it’s useful to know when to say enough is enough. His desire for her happiness is complicated by the contradictions of his own yearning and his natural reticence, and he is finding it increasingly difficult to hold onto the fact that Alice is slipping away from him into adulthood. Their idyllic relationship is almost at an end.

Scene 6 The Tweedles Alone once more, Alice is accosted by two schoolgirls who seem to have stolen Humpty’s precious rattle. They offer it to her and she joins in their game briefly while feeling a little unsure of the girls’ intentions. Charles appears and instructs them in mathematics (Alice comes top of the class), but the schoolgirls tease him and Alice becomes irritated. Then Tweedledee discovers that her sister has broken Humpty’s rattle and a fight ensues. Charles and Alice leave them to it and the girls retreat bickering over the toy.

Scene 7 The Trial The King and Queen of Hearts approach, and the Queen is not best pleased. Someone has stolen one of a batch of tarts she has baked, and she means to punish the culprit with a beheading! The Knave has been accused, but there needs to be a trial before the Jabberwock can do his deed, and so everyone has been called to give evidence in the Royal Courtroom. The proceedings begin with the Knave protesting his innocence, but gradually the case is built against him until Charles has his say, affectionately poking fun at his own inventions as, after all, this is his story and these are only figments of his own imagination. The Queen takes offence at this (naturally) and orders his head to be cut off, but the Jabberwock refuses and Charles takes advantage of the confusion this causes to grab Alice and run. During their escape they become separated and Alice is pursued by everyone as they teem from the courtroom.

Scene 8 Epilogue / Awakening Charles has fallen asleep in the chair in which Alice had been posing for her photograph. As he dreams, Alice climbs back out through the camera lens and gazes at him with a confusing mixture of fondness and regret before quietly leaving him to rest alone.

Scottish Ballet's Alice - synopsis