In Alice’s Adventures Underground, as in life, choices have repercussions. “Eat Me or Drink me?“, we are asked. Our response determines our path through the small or large door, and ultimately the colour of our suit – for of course we are not an audience, we are playing cards! Once through the small door (a very clever piece of optical illusion) we are divided yet again into two suits, meaning that there are now four groups of bemused playing cards wandering through the seemingly endless tunnels of the Waterloo Vaults, each having an entirely different adventure.
And adventure it certainly is, as breath-taking, bewildering and beautiful as it was for Alice herself. There have been changes since the acclaimed 2015 run; the plot has been tweaked, new characters inserted and new startling effects added. Without giving too much away (and, of course, I can only speak for the Hearts), we were whisked through studies, kitchens, playrooms, melancholy swamps and courtrooms, populated by a host of eccentric and familiar characters. The Duchess sneezed and berated her pig-baby, the Frog Footman guarded the doors, the White Rabbit sprinted past, muttering to himself, the Queen of Hearts threatened and stomped and in every mirror we caught tantalizing glimpses of Alice herself. We even had a fantastically deranged tea-party with that loopy trio the March Hare, the Hatter and the Dormouse. In one particularly memorable scene we listened, along with the sighing moon, as the Mock Turtle crooned his plaintive lament by a pond filled with glowing umbrellas.
Yes, umbrellas. One of the wonderful things about Alice is that almost every bit of the set appears to have been constructed from junk. Battered bookcases lean terrifyingly, torn newspapers dangle, broken chess-sets prop up the roof and tables are made from bits of old railway. Stuff that nobody wants has been taken and made into something beautiful by mind-blowingly imaginative people.
And it looks great. Not that there was time to take everything in, because there is a plot, of sorts, and we were deeply involved in it. As we chased back and forth, hot on the heels of a jam tart-stealing traitor, we were swept into the manic dance of Underground; running, cavorting and laughing like children.
Puppetry and live-action combined to create a thoroughly surreal landscape, but this was the unreality of a cheese dream rather than a nightmare, and it is one from which we were loath to wake. Not that there was any rush to do so; when finally we emerged from Underground, breathless and dizzy, we found ourselves in an Alice themed bar, complete with Painting The Roses cocktails and flamingo croquet.
Alice is “hot” right now, and the myriad interpretations of Wonderland tend to fall into one of two categories; the sickly sweet (think hen parties and vintage tea cups) or the darkly twisted (avant-garde shock theatre). This is neither, or maybe a little of both. The mad wigs and drag queen makeup are all there, as is the pretty china, but the general ambience is one of joyful silliness. I could have wished for longer to thoroughly explore that magical Kingdom, but then, should I choose to return, there are three more stories to discover. And I probably will; in uncertain and troubling times, this is escapism at its very best.
Review by Genni Trickett
“There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of Wonder, Mystery and Danger” wrote Lewis Carroll.
In 2017, we invite you back. Back to this very place…
Fall deep into the Vaults, hidden beneath Waterloo station and lose yourself in a land far removed from our own. But this isn’t Alice’s adventure, it’s yours…
Returning after a sell-out run in 2015, critically acclaimed theatre company Les Enfant Terribles, in collaboration with ebp, bring their Olivier award nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground back in 2017!
Tumble down the rabbit hole falling fast into Wonderland, wandering through this ‘topsy-turvy world, wide-eyed’ (The Times) with ‘visual and tactile treats embedded everywhere!’ (The Evening Standard). Make a series of choices; Eat or drink? Grow or shrink? Take tea at the biggest un-birthday party with the maddest of Hatters; let the Cheshire Cat take you hither or thither or join the underground movement to rise against the fearsome Queen of Hearts.
Revel in the ‘Wonderland of your imagination recreated before your eyes’ (The Guardian) finding yourself at the centre of the story piecing together the puzzle searching for Alice who has been lost in looking glass.
If you are already a Wonderlander, be prepared for new surprises and if you’re yet to be greeted by the White Rabbit, come and experience ‘real magic and wonder’ (The Stage).
Don’t be late! Logic will fail you. Nonsense will overwhelm you!
Venue: The Vaults
Leake Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8SW
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recommended ages 11+.
Show Opened: 15th Apr 2017
Booking Until: 23rd Sep 2017
Strictly no late admissions.