Hidden in shadow, our insecurities can be forgotten about. Many seek comfort in the dark to bury these anxieties, but at a cost. This is what happens to Alex in their own personal journey through the Wonderland-esque shadows. Alex in Shadow, told by live performances and shadow puppetry is a blend of fantasy and familiar literature.
There’s a shaky start as the plot burns slowly before lunging into a pure spectacle. Narratively, the production harks back to works of Carroll and Barrie. Transfixed by the effects on stage, it’s easy to buy into the organic new land created around the venue. The transitions from sequences are relatively seamless.
Borrowing visually from a globe’s worth of creatures, the light play combined with puppetry is breathtaking, particularly Gil and George, a two headed tortoise reminding us that everything we say may one day be used against us. The voices, designs and scripting of these beings is what brings them to life. What must also be noted is the live music, timed to precision, with the aged feel of a bard telling the story to the audience.
Mental, emotional and physical metamorphoses play large parts in the tale, from the birth of the dragonfly to Alex’s transformation. From struggling artist, selfish and repugnant in their stance on life, Alex grows. Our second Alex is by far the most accomplished. His expressions are of genuine anguish, but when needed his performance can be touching and sweet. This cannot be said for all performers, as two are weaker than their counterparts. The transition – from a performer who grasps the balance of arrogance and likability back to one who seems to have forgotten her character’s recent self-fulfilling epiphany – is ultimately disappointing.
Alex in Shadow is a work of fantasy, right at home in Paradise Vaults. Fans of fairy-tale literature, puppetry or fantastical storytelling will appreciate this production. The level of detail found in the puppets is admirable. There are, however, issues with a plot structure very similar to that of Alice in Wonderland.