Shoes and Sanity Optional
Going “Down the Rabbit Hole” in Alice’s Queer and Sexy Wonderland
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
~ Alice in Wonderland
I couldn’t resist quoting form Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book in my very first blog post here for theBUZZ. It seems particularly appropriate given that I’m writing about the Yes-Men and A Platinum Production’s innovative new stage creation: “Down the Rabbit Hole” at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. “Down the Rabbit Hole” is a medley of burlesque, drag, and musical elements that combine to tell a story of self-empowerment. I sat down with one of the three founding Platinum Production members Belle Jumelles, and Yes-Men member Flare, to discuss their bonanza of a production.
Belle and Flare are sitting across from me in the most cramped Starbucks I’ve ever been to. Sitting pressed together in the corner of the café with my recorder on the table in front of us, we look like conspirators in a particularly bizarre movie. Flare, rocking a newsboy cap, reminds me ludicrously of Jimmy Olson. Meanwhile Belle looks exactly like World War II feminist icon Rosie the Riveter. I mean it. She has the curl and everything. Meanwhile, I’m trying to subtly check if I have lipstick on my teeth.
My coffee is getting cold as I’m listening to Flare. They’ve been talking to me about their production, which to me kind of sounds like the grown-up version of a child’s sundae – meaning they started throwing things into the mix and couldn’t stop. It’s a really exciting mix too: drag, burlesque, musical numbers, interactive video displays all thrown into one of the craziest stories repressed Victorian society could ever come up with. I’m a little stunned by the sheer scale of this one-night-only production. I’m trying to get my bearings, so I throw a softball question about why they chose to adapt Alice. That’s when Flare drops the bomb.
“For me, you almost don’t ever want Alice to leave Wonderland”, begins Flare. Seeing my face as I’m visualizing the various creepy elements of Wonderland that gave me nightmares as a child, Flare elaborates: “This creepy story has stood the test of time. You don’t want to believe that these characters aren’t real, even when they’re menacing and dark. I don’t know what kind of magic is behind that kind of writing, but it resonates in people’s imaginations.
Belle chimes in, “It’s so accurate to our regular lives. Being a drag king or burlesque performer, or just queer in general, is kind of underground and not respected by mainstream society, but in Wonderland it’s okay. The key is by the end of the story you can be that person in regular society and that’s okay. That’s the punch of the story.”
Flare explains: “We all connected to the fact that Wonderland is where you can be your outrageous self. The self-discovery is to find your confidence.
Flare and Belle know a lot about confidence. Flare has been producing drag shows for 17 years. Flare also does burlesque (Boilesque – a term Flare coined). Belle has been doing burlesque for over rive years, and has produced many, many burlesque shows under A Platinum Production’s banner, along with veteran DJ Johnny B. Goode and fellow burlesque siren St. Stella.
Johnny B. Goode plays the Mad Hatter, while St. Stella is the “Queen of Tarts.” Yes-Men members Maximum Capacity, Spencer Munny, Titus Androgynous, and Brian Bedside Manor respectively play the Cheshire Cat, the Tweedles, the White Rabbit, and the March Hare. Flare himself plays “The Smoking Caterpillar.” Belle Jumelles, of course, is the eponymous Alice.
“Well, it was Johnny’s dream project to do this,” says Flare. “We’ve been planning for months, since November actually. I mean it just evolved. Initially, we started doing it just for the frivolous fact that all of us fit our characters so well. Titus came up with the story arc concept to make it more queer, and we realized it was a self-empowerment story.”
At this point, the literature student in me felt obliged to point out that they had created a self-empowerment story based off of a sinister novel written by a man who was so shy and self-conscious that he never married, never had children, and never even left school – Lewis Carroll became a university don.
Belle looks at me for a moment, then states seriously: “Lara, you’re such a nerd.” Then she laughs. Wondering for a moment why that was ever really in question, I remind her of my point.
“Yeah, I mean the underground world (Wonderland) is a dangerous place, but it’s also exciting. You get the sense that real Victorian England was very dull and bland.”
I’m beginning to understand. The underground in “Down the Rabbit Hole” is free because it allows its inhabitants to be these fantastical things. Is it possible that I’m starting to let go of my childish prejudice against Alice in Wonderland?
I just need one more little push before I’m convinced, and Belle provides it when she reveals their plan for adapting the famous Mad Tea Party (no relation to the Republican Party) scene featuring the March Hare, Mad Hatter, and Alice. Carroll’s famous take on that profoundly English ritual has been dramatized to “Let’s have a Kiki” by The Scissor Sisters. Suddenly I’m picturing that annoying idealized brat Alice singing “Let’s have a Kiki, mother****ers!”
Sold. I have to see that.
Friday April 10th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre – 12 Alexander Street
1st show – Doors 7:30pm – show time 8pm sharp! Advance tickets available at
Buddies in Bad Times box office, online:, or by phone: 416-975-8555 $15 advance, $20 at door
8pm show is all ages. Please note this production has sexual content, mature subject matters, and some forms of nudity.
2nd show – Doors 10pm – show time 10:30pm. No advance tickets, at the door only. 19 +
Dance Party after the show!
Teaser: The audience will follow a questioning Alice as she transforms out of her life of insecurity into a confident burlesque performer. On her journey Alice will meet the eccentric and insightful characters of Wonderland who will show her that being true to yourself is the best path to follow.
Photo Credit: Johnny B. Goode
This interview has been edited for length
About the Author
Lara Thompson is an expert babbler, movie addict, and aspiring fashionista. She spends a large part of every day wandering aimlessly around Toronto (mostly because she can’t read a map) and the rest of it being a fourth-year English and Classical Civilizations major at the University of Toronto. When she’s not lost on campus or in her own thoughts, she’s reading about obscure punctuation rules and browsing the collections of Canadian designers. Lara is thrilled to be contributing to theBUZZ and helping bring exposure to Toronto’s vibrant LGBTQ community.