Alice in WDL: Reflections on the Senior School Musical

author image
Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong

On March 10 and 11 we were thrilled by the Senior School production of Alice in WDL. This spectacular adventure, full of great songs, incredible dance numbers, brilliant costumes and colorful set, put our students' talents on full display.

​Even though due to epidemic prevention protocols we were unable to have parents on campus, staff and students filled the Mei Lan Fang Theatre on both nights giving our cast and crew the essential experience of a live audience whilst our families were able to watch the livestream from home.

If you're thinking the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, think again. Working from an original script co-written by Senior School Head of Drama Helen Bamford and Year 9 student Coll McFadden, our students addressed the question: What would happen if you took Alice in Wonderland and set it against the backdrop of the pandemic?

In our version, Alice is a student mired in online learning who sees a white rabbit hop across her computer screen. She absent-mindedly clicks on it, thus kicking off a journey to a world where nothing is as it seems.


Time is one of the major themes of Alice in WDL: lack of time, inaccurate time, time never moving. "The pandemic has gone on for such a long time," Alice complains to her Wonderland friends. The irony was certainly not lost on us.

Brilliant set design and incredible costumes took us into Wonderland where Alice meets a familiar set of characters: the Cheshire cat, the caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and of course the Queen of Hearts.


Meanwhile an energetic soundtrack of pop songs from the 1970s and brilliant choreography revved up stunning dance numbers that had the entire audience up and dancing in the aisles.

"Every production is a community effort," says Ms. Bamford. "This year's in particular was a large undertaking with over 130 students and 60 members of staff involved. It was truly inspiring to see everyone come together."


This year was even more challenging as the recent outbreak resulted in several cast members being held out of the production at the last minute due to mandated quarantine.

Year 8 student, Isabella B, for example, stepped in to play the role of Queen of Hearts. She only started learning her lines at 10am the day of the show and she absolutely nailed it. Despite the extraordinary challenges, the production came off without a hitch.

"I would like to single out the resilience that our staff and students displayed, " says Head of Senior School Alison Derbyshire. "They had so many unforeseen challenges thrown at them and they took them all so calmly. They are brilliant role models for all of us."