How The Royal Ballet's Lauren Cuthbertson Brings Whimsy to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
As told to Laura Cappelle.
I knew before Christopher Wheeldon even started Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that he wanted me to create the title role. We made Alice together. We feel like she is our girl! She’s charming, witty, tough, curious. She’s got a very big heart. She’s also spontaneous, which helps the show, because you don’t have to be calculated the whole time. You can bounce off the characters you come across, because everyone plays them slightly differently.
In the ballet, Alice is slightly older than she is in the book. She wouldn’t be able to have a love interest if she were younger! I love the way that Chris added the double role of Jack/the Knave of Hearts into the story. He’s a gardener, so she’s probably seen him around for a while. They have a very innocent, loving chemistry: In the end, she admits to everyone that it was she who gave him the jam tart he was accused of stealing, even though he doesn’t want her to. That shows the truest of love, I think, however old you are.
I have a couple of favorite moments. When the Cook comes in, I love spinning her around and trying to make her drop jelly. Another one is the flowers’ pas de deux: In some of the lifts, I feel like I’m up high in the scenery, in the biggest, most beautiful flower garden. I’ve always had a bit of a crazy imagination, and when I’m onstage doing Alice, I see everything around me, not just the sets. I’m seeing Wonderland. It’s a beautiful feeling, and Joby Talbot’s music is incredible—it’s the heart of the ballet.
“I see everything around me, not just the sets.” Photo by Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy ROH.
Alice is in most of the scenes, so the ballet is relentless. When you go into it, there is a certain anxiety, because there is so much to remember. Stamina has to be high. Chris is also very specific about his technical demands: In pointework, he demands particular things, like going through your feet, certain angles…It’s tricky, because it’s the kind of ballet where you have to be able to feel free.
Alice is one of the most special moments in my career, and I will always treasure it. What I love about Chris is that everyone onstage knows why they’re there. I think that’s what draws the audience in so much, and draws us in as well, because it means you can lose yourself in a piece for three hours and take the audience with you.
Tip: Try to have amazing interactions with every character. Ask questions, and visualize everything. you can’t blindly do the steps: The imagination has to come first.