Damon Albarn and 59Productions wonder.land Collaboration to Compete at Sundance 2016

wonder.landCinema is all about the sensory experience. It is always an interesting strand of hotly contested argument then, when the foibles of 3D (and other techniques) are discussed in passionate discourse between two opposing factions: one side who embrace the advances, pitted against the purists who believe that the employ of 3D and its ilk is an inferiority ne a ‘gimmick’; nothing more than eye candy/window-dressing set to sully, or distract from, the potency of neuron-stretching narrative or even to cover the cracks of a vacuous plot. At their most dismissive, they cry ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ and bang vehemently on the table.

Yet, as the difference between celluloid and digital become ever more impossible to distinguish, and advances to combat light loss on 3D is making considerable headway, the reality is that technology is consigning said ‘purists’ to the past; casting them as bizarre, contrary and anachronistic figures battling pig-headedly through sentimentality for no real purpose other than quaint nostalgia. Move along Granddad and keep up with the times.

This brings us to the news that the (genuinely) immersive fabulous wonder.land experience has been nominated in the New Frontiers strand at the Sundance festival in Utah. Why has it been nominated? Well, who doesn’t want to enter into a surreal universe and be serenaded by a gigantic Cheshire cat to a smoky song entitled ‘fabulous’, arranged by Blur and Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn, with lyrics by Moira Buffini?

This scribe can attest to the wondrous immersive quality of the project. Stemming from National Theatre’s show wonder.land, this extension of the production is assisted by Oculus Rift technology, where the viewer is sent down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole where you can delve in and around the expansive 360 degree landscape whilst said aforementioned cat sings to you.

This is ground-breaking stuff and something that can genuinely be labelled as ‘the first of its kind’. Taking credit for this fantastical experience is the boldly imaginative British company 59Productions, whose previous credits include the record-breaking David Bowie Is… exhibition and the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Co-Creative Director of 59 Productions, Lysander Ashton, says: “We are thrilled to be bringing fabulous wonder.land to Sundance Film Festival, and to share it with American audiences at such a world-renowned event. It is particularly exciting to explore the new frontier between theatre, film and virtual reality and to find new ways of using technology to bring stories to life.”

The theatrical show wonder.land is running at the National Theatre until April. The Sundance Festival takes place in Utah from 21-31st January.  

About The Author

Having upped sticks and marched down the A13 from Essex into the smog of London, Greg can be found ranting and raging as the Film Correspondent on the Jon Gaunt Show from time to time and also on his weekly 'The Film Review' podcast (plug alert - available on iTunes and Audioboom). Aside from Front Row Reviews, he also scribbles regularly for HeyUGuys. Lowlights, thus far, have been John Hurt scolding with the question 'do you really think like that?', upsetting acclaimed filmmaker Ondi Timoner with his piece for the Sunday Mirror and falling out with the blog editor of the Huffington Post. Oh, and he did bring Liv Ullmann to tears (but in a good way... more of a highlight, that one). He can also be found writing on theatre and music for the Islington Gazette, Ham & High, Hackney Gazette, Bargain Theatre, SupaJam and others. He's often moaning about how tired he is, and he's a frustrated musician.

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