For 150 years Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has thrilled, enchanted, inspired, and remained timelessly popular with generation after generation of children and adults alike.
The most recent incarnation of this story, Alice’s Adventures Underground, by Les Enfants Terribles created in partnership with Emma Brünjes Productions, has made its home at The Vaults, London.
This creative space, with its industrious brickwork pulsating around you with every roll of the train wheels above and grumble of the tube below, is like a Jabberwock aching to spread its wings amongst the masses.
It lives, breathing artistic fire to those who can discover it, underneath Waterloo station and births new adventures to the more eager who are endeavouring to find something new. It’s hard, once you’ve witnessed what they’ve done with it, to think of any other place in London where a whole other world could be hidden away with such style.
In this wonderland nothing is as it seems, you immerse yourself in a greatness built with words, illustrations, actions, and countless dreams of creatures that shouldn’t exist, of places you should never know and of a reality that you long for. Once you fall down this rabbit hole, nothing will ever be quite the same.
I still feel like I’m reeling backwards from the experience, trying to comprehend that the walls aren’t made of books anymore, and that a six-foot rabbit isn’t about to jump out at me to encourage me to decide whether to eat or drink.
I laughed and giggled with delight when I sat down with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, all their friends at the Mad Hatters Tea Party, I sat with terrified anticipation, alongside my fellow hearts as the Red Queen began to lay down her law, all this and I went for a run with Alice too.
I fell for the Alice’s Adventures Underground experience hook, line and sinker, with reality being a far off concept for a good few hours.
I, and everyone I spoke to, was in awe of the sets, the costumes and the actors who brought them to life. As you would expect attention to detail is everything with this show, so if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket then make sure you look at everything – and don’t forget when you think it’s all over, you still get to explore the Queen’s maze and play Flamingo croquet.
All this, and I’ve not even mentioned the multiple bars and their extraordinary cocktail menus. There was a barman at the bar in the gardens at the end of the Queen’s maze with a beard so glorious and like none that I have every witnessed who introduced me to foam based cocktails, and for that he will forever have a special place in the folklore of my life.
Lewis Carroll’s book gave the world the quote that many turn to in a time of emotional downturn: “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” I believe that for so many the story of Alice, and its acceptance of the life less ordinary, has been a shining light. I know I have certainly found solace in that line.
This kind of universal acceptance for others who may have nowhere else to go is part of the enduring enthusiasm for Carroll’s masterpiece, and all of the many creative interpretations it has spawned.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is totally without pretence. It’s exotic – pushing at the senses in a frenzied attack of beauty, dominant – in how it forces your mind away from the mundane and it is delightful extravagant in its delivery. It’s a show in the true spirit of the original text.
There has been nothing like this before, and if you haven’t got a ticket then don’t worry, it’s only 150 years until it will all be done again.