Damon Albarn reinvents ‘Alice In Wonderland’ for Manchester International Festival musical

Albarn worked with director Rufus Norris and writer Moira Buffini on musical

Damon Albarn has written the music for a new musical that will be shown at Manchester’s Palace Theatre in July as part of Manchester International Festival.

The show, titled wonder.land, is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice In Wonderland and is directed by the National Theatre’s incoming Director Rufus Norris. Lyrics to the songs will be provided by Moira Buffini, who has previously worked on Tamara Drewe and Handbagged.

Wonder.land is billed as a world where “you can be exactly who you want to be”. The story follows Aly, a 12-year-old, who “loves this extraordiarly virtual world. Bullied at school and unhappy at home, wonder.land lets her escape from her parents, from teachers, from herself”.


We are told that “online, Aly becomes Alice: brave, beautiful and in control. But some of the people she meets – the weird Dum and Dee, the creepy Cheshire Cat, the terrifying Red Queen – seem strangely familiar. As hard as Aly tries to keep them apart, real life and wonder.land begin to collide in ever more curious and dangerous ways.”

Speaking about his interest in the plot, Albarn said: “I’m fascinated by the idea of going down a rabbit hole, the otherwordliness and what that might mean. Alice aside, The Queen of Hearts, The Duchess, White Rabbit, Caterpillar were the most threatening characters of my childhood. I was genuinely very frightened of them as a kid.”

Wonder.land is designed by Rae Smith, with projections by 59 Productions and lighting by Paule Constable – the design team behind War Horse. Following its premiere in Manchester, it will visit the National Theatre’s Olivier Theatre in November before travelling to the Théatre du Chatalet in Paris in 2016. Tickets for the show will go on sale at 11.30am on Thursday January 22, and will cost £18 – £45, with concessions available.

Previously, Damon Albarn’s first opera, Dr Dee, which he also wrote with Rufus Norris, premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2011. Arts critics warmly received Albarn’s performance in that show, which told the story of 16th century scientist John Dee.