Friday 5 May 2017


Behind-the-Scenes at Alice's Adventures Underground at The Vaults

Imagine walking into a wondrous bar where cocktails have jam tarts on the top, the stirrer is a lollipop, and you can have a hearty dose of mock turtle chips or a Jabberwocky burger. Now imagine wading through the pages of a book before you're given the choice between 'eat me' and 'drink me', your decision defining your path for the rest of the fantastical evening. Will you be a rebel, or do you cheer for the Queen of Hearts and all she stands for? There is only one way to find out and that is to go to Alice's Adventures Underground at the Vaults, an imaginative and immerse theatrical experience created by Les Enfants Terrible.

If the show sounds familiar, that will be because it was on in the same location several years ago and was even nominated for a Olivier Award (and rightfully so). They're now back bigger and better than ever, with more members in the cast and more exciting scenes for audiences to explore.

The 90 minute journey through Wonderland is fast-paced and constantly exciting, as regardless of the journey you're on you're smack-down in the middle of the action, and a key to unlocking the story along the way. And you even get to meet and interact with famous Lewis Carroll characters (though which ones depends on your route!), such as Humpty Dumpty, the Knave of Hearts, and the Caterpillar.

The costumes, puppets, and special effects used to make them come alive are so very clever, and if you were to get a moment to stand still (you probably won't, there's a lot of rushing around involved), you'll be in awe of the detail and intricacy that has gone into the design of the entire experience; the magical world of Wonderland really has come to the tunnels in The Vaults underneath Waterloo.

You probably noticed I've been skirting around the actual story of the show and the way it works, and that's because this piece of theatre is best enjoyed by being somewhat unprepared for the madness that lies ahead of you. Most people will be familiar with Lewis Carroll's world and characters and so won't be going in completely blind. Instead they'll be in awe when picking up the clever way in which the original text has been woven into the script, and how Wonderland has been turned upside down to make place for a constant stream of audience members exploring its every corner.

And a constant stream it is. There are six different audiences in the tunnels at the same time, split into four groups each, meaning there are a staggering 24 different adventures playing out simultaneously!

I had the chance to speak to some of the cast after the show and it's extra-ordinary to hear more about the ins and outs of the logistics that go into making it all work so flawlessly. For example, the cast members are split into teams, each team taking on a minimum of four roles throughout the week that they alternate. And the two actors playing Tweedledee and Tweedledum only have about a minute each time to reset their highly choreographed and physical routine before the next batch of audience members come in. I was already in awe of the talent of the actors before talking to them, but afterwards I was even more amazed.

For someone going to the theatre as often as I do, shows can start to feel similar, but something so different like Alice's Adventures Underground stays constantly fresh and interesting through its clever approach of having multiple journeys for audience members to take, the way they play on different reactions that happen every night, and of course the changes and additions they've created from the last time they were in London (most notably an additional 60 script pages, taking the total to 186 pages).

I used to say that I'm not a fan of immersive theatre, but after my recent experience at the Fawlty Tower Dining Experience (such fun) and Alice's Adventures Underground (so imaginative), I'm going to say that yes I do actually love this completely different breed of theatre. While I am not a fan of being put in an awkward position or 'on show', when done well and blending stage with reality in the intricate way that Les Enfants Terrible have mastered it, there are fewer theatrical experiences that are more exciting and rewarding than an immersive one.

Alice's Adventures Underground is an innovative and intricate show, and just like its source material it will inspire imaginations to run wild. Merely writing about it really can't do justice to the fantastical and fascinating journey into Wonderland this theatre company has managed to create at The Vaults (a very different and awesome theatre space in its own right, but heightened to an even more awe-inspiring level by Les Enfants Terrible).

You really must go and experience the madness for yourself, so you can fall in love with the wondrous world of Lewis Carroll and undoubtedly want to book again straight away to experience an entirely different journey. ♠️

Alice's Adventures Underground (and it's family-friendly counterpart Adventures in Wonderland) is playing at the Vaults in Waterloo until 23 September 2017. You can book tickets here.

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