Let’s hear it for the Hatter! A review of Wondered by Troy Bullock

If you’d love to watch Skeletor slay He-Man just once, or see Gargamel slurp down a scrumptious Smurf soup, you’ll find devilish delight in Mira Ball Productions enchantingly horrible homage to the Hatter: Wondered, by Elodie Boal.

If you’d love to watch Skeletor slay He-Man just once, or see Gargamel slurp down a scrumptious Smurf soup, you’ll find devilish delight in Mira Ball Productions enchantingly horrible homage to the Hatter: Wondered, by Elodie Boal.

The carefully designed set that awaited the audience was wonderfully intriguing – an assortment of strange bric-a-brac, it was the kind of spread you’d make a bee-line for at a jumble sale. Winks to that ‘other Alice story’ abound – strewn playing cards, a red and white mushroom stool, a porcelain caterpillar and an elegant white rabbit hold court amongst decanters of brightly coloured liquids, and the entire insides of Grandma’s crockery cupboard. The four empty seats at this maniacal dining table are the only places left to sit on this Sunday night.  As the lights go down, a villainous voice announces that its ‘time for tea’; and with this warning our guests of honour arrive.

Elodie Boal’s witty and playful script, a celebration of everything evil about that Hatter, is a surprising and challenging character study that destroys any preconceived ideas you may have of who the heroes and villains are in Wonderland.

Tonight, the Mad Hatter will throw his final dinner party, and I, for one, empathise with the challenges he has faced, and support his decision wholeheartedly. He really does deserve a guest list who appreciate the effort he puts into his party planning – his delicious delicacies, his world-famous tea, the personalised gifts and warm hospitality; not to mention the quirky and creative songs he has written and rehearsed – all designed to entertain his unfortunately ungrateful guests.

Reagan Warner delivers us a truly iconic villain in his portrayal of Hatter. This is a star-making role for the talented young actor who embodies this quirky and beloved character with flamboyant physicality. It was a treat to watch him switch seamlessly between maniacal evil, jovial joy and raging anger with impressive vocal control, in a very entertaining and carefully executed performance. Sorry Johnny Depp, I’ve found my new favourite Hatter.

All our unappreciated anti-hero wants is to make Alice happy, and throw her a lovely tea party, and you guessed it, she’s late again. Classic Alice.   At least Cheshire Cat, Dum and Dee are on time, but that’s where their social etiquette ends. Their inability to behave politely sees them systematically make a mockery of the frustrated Hatter’s efforts to host a sophisticated evening.  No wonder our Hatter is mad.

When Alice finally decides to arrive, it’s in large dark glasses and a sexy ‘like a virgin’ esque blouse, and, for a minute, I think maybe she’s come straight from an all-night party. With barely an apology for her tardiness, she refuses to drink anything other than milk (perhaps to line her stomach), upsetting poor Hatter right from the get-go. He’d made his famous tea especially for her.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Hatter. He cares so much for Alice, would do anything to please her, and all he asks in return is that she be reliable and follow through on the promises she makes.

I had a lightbulb moment, watching Hatter gushing “Look at what you’ve done to me! You were never here when I needed you!” I finally saw through all the childhood brainwashing and now I realise who the real victim is in Wonderland. Alice – you’re a mean and selfish girl, and Hatter deserves better than you.