[Grace Carter as Alice – image source]
In order to mark the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the subterranean Vaults at Waterloo have been beautifully transformed into a sprawling underland… wonderworld… wonderground. No, no, that’s all wrong, I’m certain! I must have been changed for Mabel! Produced by Les Enfants Terribles/Emma Brunjes and directed by Oliver Lansley and James Seager, Alice’s Adventures Underground is a promenade journey through a gorgeous series of scenes from Wonderland, and a feat of logistics, with all bits working like clockwork and all cues met to ensure the experience runs as smoothly as a dream.
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.” — Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Though led by an animated and immensely talented cast, the true hidden stars of the show are the designers: Samuel Wyer (set), Nina Dunn (video), Max Humphries/Finn Caldwell (puppets) and Mike Gunning (lighting). It’s thanks to these guys that Wonderland is as… well… wondrous as it truly is. The audience enter through the disarrayed writing room of Lewis Carroll, and then journey through the pages (quite literally) and down the rabbit hole, where they are asked to make the crucial choice: EAT ME or DRINK ME.
I went twice (!) with my friend Hannah, a devout Alice fan, and chose differently each time. Either journey converges in certain places and separates in others. Audience members are each divided into suits (hearts, diamonds or clubs, spades) and each suit in turn goes on a different mission which is apparent at the end. Those who, like me, seek out shows that integrate audience interaction, will be very pleased by this show; but those who prefer to observe will not be disappointed either.
By far my favourite scene was the incredibly beautiful song of the mock turtle in a docklands scene under the mournful moon: here, all the stops have been pulled and the scene will stay with you for a long time to come. However, all scenes contain their own piece of magic, and Hannah and I spent the entire 90 minutes (both times) wandering around in open-mouthed wonder, feeling absolutely like children and buzzing even after we’d left.
[Photo by Tristram Kenton. Image source]