Monica Trapaga stars in The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party coming to QPAC for the January school holidays.
Monica Trapaga stars in The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party coming to QPAC for the January school holidays. Daniel Boud

A tea party overflowing with madcap circus fun

THE world of Alice in Wonderland is reimagined in a fun way in The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  

The new children's circus cabaret show makes its Queensland debut at QPAC tomorrow, offering up a colourful and interactive experience for the summer school holidays.  

"Alice in Wonderland is in most children's lives in some way," Monica Trapaga says.

"It's become an artery to childhood. If you're in any English speaking country then you will have come across Alice in Wonderland in some format."  

Monica, a Play School alumni, helped former Circus Oz artistic director Mike Finch create the show for the Sydney Opera House. It went on to have a sell-out premiere and is now rolling out across the country.  

"There is no Alice (in the cast). Conceptually the child who comes to see the show is Alice," she says.  

"It's about acceptance and tolerance. For instance, our red queen is a man (Stuart Christie). 

Stuart Christie as the Red Kween in a scene from The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Stuart Christie as the Red Kween in a scene from The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Daniel Boud

"What I love about working with Mike is he's completely politically incorrect while at the same time being generous in terms of his diverse collection of performers... he knows every circus performer in the country there is to know."  

Inspired by Lewis Carroll's classic tale, it's a show full of acrobatics, circus, singing, dancing and roller skates that has been described as a 'chaotic cabaret'.  

"Any good chaos has a lot of good organisation behind it," Monica says.  

"It's totally madcap, very silly and very funny. I think that's why it's been really well received. Adults get all the adult jokes and the kids come and just love the colour, the movement, the characters and the musicality. It's quite rock 'n' roll but with a respect to the original Victorian intention."  

Monica's flamboyant character is inspired by the flamingo which features briefly during the Queen of Hearts' croquet ground scene.  

"We devised this whole script around this woman who comes to see the show and ends up transforming into the flamingo, which is the most minor character in the book," she says.   

"It ends up becoming all about her wanting to create a dance. The whole concept of the show is held together with this constant theme that the flamingo keeps trying to do her thing."  

Monica Trapaga as the flamboyant flamingo in The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Monica Trapaga as the flamboyant flamingo in The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Daniel Boud

Her feathered on-stage persona was the perfect excuse to resurrect one of Monica's original children's songs.  

"I've always loved flamingos. I wrote The Flamingo Club when my son was three months old; he's now 22," she says.

"It was for my show Monica's Trip to the Zoo, which I toured for a whole year. I sang that song every day and the kids loved it. When I suggested it to Mike, it just exploded into the production we have now. I never imagined that song would ever make a comeback, nor did I imagine flamingos would be so popular again."  

Mad Hatter's Tea Party is Monica's first foray into children's entertainment in several years.   

"I'm a grandma now, which makes it really nice to be back in the children's world," she says.  

"The past couple of years I haven't been doing much of it, but now it's relevant again. I can be a disgraceful grandmother and embarrass my kids (laughs)."  

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party also features the juggling of everyday objects by Daniel Gorski, the comic hula stylings of international festival comedian Eloise Green and the incredible hand-balances of Casey Douglas.

Eloise Green in a scene from The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Eloise Green in a scene from The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Daniel Boud

The Funatorium: Mad Hatter's Tea Party plays QPAC's Playhouse from January 3-13. Tickets start from $25. For more information go to the QPAC website.


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