To mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, a new production is taking place in the Vaults deep underneath Waterloo Station. Suzanne Baum fell down the rabbit hole to experience a magical piece of interactive theatre
Being slightly claustrophobic I’d be the last person who would agree to spend a morning underground, especially on a boiling hot day. It was only the promise from friends who had visited that it was an experience simply not to be missed that I reluctantly agreed to overcome my fear and spend 90 minutes walking through tunnels under Waterloo station. And I’m so glad I did-for what I discovered was a spectacular piece of theatre that literally must not be missed!
Having heard so much about the interactive production of Alice in Wonderland staged by the theatre company Les Enfants Terribles, I was as excited as my six-year-old son Jake when we arrived at the show. Forgetting for a moment this was in fact the kid’s production-there is a separate ‘experience’ aimed at adults-I felt almost childlike in my excitement!
The discovery of the incredible set that plays out the story of Alice is an awe-inspiring experience. We start in Charles Dodgson’s (Carroll’s real name) study, where the show begins with clever illusions to make it look like Alice flitting between mirrors. Split into two groups, the start of your journey as an audience member takes you through one of two doors; labelled ‘Drink Me’ or ‘Eat Me’?, where your mission to discover who has stolen the Queen’s tarts begins.
You are led by a guide through room after room of incredible sets, where optical illusions, phenomenal actors, costumes and staging work together to create Alice’s adventure; with each room bringing a new surprise. Along the way you get to visit Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, two members of the cast who in their giant papier mâché heads with staring eyes and rows of grinning teeth, appear as if they have stepped straight out of Carroll’s book . A mock turtle performing a song and a caterpillar cleverly lure the audience in; with the highlight being the eccentric Mad Hatter’s tea party where all the audience are sat around a table, given tarts to eat, as the actors immerse themselves within.
It is chaotic, somewhat strange and totally mad but it is theatre at its best and I take my hat off to them!
Suitable for children aged five to 10, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is running at The Vaults, Southbank until 30 August
For more details, (including information on the adult performances), visit www.alice-underground.com