At Vaults theatre until 23rd September
I’ve been wanting to experience Alice’s Adventures Underground since it came to the Vaults in London Waterloo two years ago in 2015. Upon (repeatedly) browsing the website what held me back was the ‘pricy’ nature of the tickets, used as I was to £5 16-25 National Theatre steals and £15 West End seats. This summer the time for my Alice inspired adventure finally arrived, and I would love to go back underground again.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is Les Enfants Terribles’ immersive theatrical experience. It is without a doubt the most interesting and exciting theatrical experience I have had to date.
Along with 30 or so other Wonderlanders we gathered in a room full of curious odds and ends. Book cases with books suspended half falling from their shelves, typewriters, photographs mid process pegged above our heads, letters, secret curtain covered hideaways, fascinations numerous to keep us occupied until an Alice hologram appeared, flitting from one gilt mirror to the next around the room and leading us through to fall down to Wonderland..
Upon entering Wonderland we chose Eat me or Drink me, chewing pastilles or sipping medicine bottles then edging enlarged to the Eat me door or shrinking down to the Drink me door. This splits the group in half by each person’s choice. Once through to Wonderland border control the group is split by randomly assigned playing cards. There are consequently 4 routes through Wonderland meaning each time you go an entirely new experience awaits.
My boyfriend Edward and I chose Eat me and by chance were then both placed in the same suit, Diamonds. Edward was assigned as the Ace, because the Diamond card declared his “mother always told him he could trust people wearing glasses”. The Ace was responsible for checking all cards made it through to each room with no dawdling which would doubtless lead to execution. So Edward was transformed by Wonderland magic into Bob the Ace, helping out Humpty Dumpty and supplying evidence in court to the Red King with a “face you can trust”, and if all went well on our mission, one we would see on a Wonderland stamp in the near future. I meanwhile was “not to be trusted”, my claim to fame being used repeatedly as a body shield by the Red Queen against the Jabberwocky.
My highlights were many, and included wandering through a tunnel made entirely of open books (magical), and the room of doors which opened in turn to shower snow, or take a playing card (aka member of the audience) through only to become a brick wall. Memorable too was the scene with the Mock turtle, stranded with a piano and pitiful sign “will play for soup” amidst fairy lit umbrellas floating in a giant pool of underground water. And of course the chaotic tea party, the Mad Hatter dancing across the huge table with the audience sat all round, the Dormouse snug in a bucket right under my nose, repeatedly reaching out with the pot to try and catch tea sporadically spurting down the table in fountains. There were even cocktails to sip yourself in tea cups if you purchased in advance. I met Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum (in a crazed gymnast show) the Cheshire Cat, and of course the White Rabbit. You are entirely a part of Alice’s world. In one scene when making jam tarts one fellow Diamond was passed the baby (a plastic pig wrapped in a blanket) and rocked it seriously, another was ordered to peel a potato with a spoon (then told, no, use a knife).
This is theatre at its very best, an experience to make you laugh and feel excited, nervous, surprised, and utterly immersed in another world to the extent that I forgot where I was and what day it was. It is a completely unique event, perfect for an occasion (there were people there celebrating birthdays, and a hen do), or even any old unbirthday. To complete or indeed begin the experience there is a themed Wonderland bar at the close, beautifully designed by Darling and Edge, with flamingo croquet, Alice inspired drinks and a photo booth. I can’t wait to see what they do next.