★★★★★ You’ll never want to leave Wonderland ★★★★★
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland | Review
You begin your journey in the Wonderland Bar. The performance has not yet begun, yet you have already become immersed within your surroundings. Painted trees overarch the large room filled with decorations from top to bottom, a “drink me” sign dangles above the counter, an “eat me” above the food stall. A corseted lady in a Dodo mask swings from an aerial hoop as an illuminated clock with a face watches down on the crowd, building the anticipation, the buzz and excitement in the audience’s faces is clear. It is Les Enfant Terribles’ meticulous attention to detail and the mind blowing set design that does true justice towards Lewis Carroll’s infamous story.
The audience is split into four groups, card suits to be precise, based on a decision you make at the start, and from then on your fate in Wonderland is decided. Shortly after agreeing with my sister that we would stick together throughout it all, we made the instinctual decision to split up and experience different adventures entirely, and it was a choice well made. Not only does this ask you to step out of your comfort zone as an audience member, but it allows you to become involved in the production even more. I followed my instinct, the White Rabbit to be precise, and was led into a lift which seemingly descended into the heart of The Vaults and further down the rabbit hole itself.
The puppetry and the costumes were stunning, as we left the lift we were greeted in a dark room by the Cheshire Cat, its iconic big eyes lit up, its pupils dilating as the puppeteer expressed its vast array of emotions, a tilt of its head giving the illusion of a floating entity around the room. After venturing further into the story, I quickly discovered that my suit was part of The Rebellion, and our aim was to overthrow the Red Queen by breaking the rules, and committing utter nonsense.
As we walked, explored and ran from room to room, led by the Ace of our suit, we encountered the likes of TweedleDum and TweedleDee who swung from the rooftops in a circus-like manner. We met a huge caterpillar in a tent, who recreated the story of how Alice came to be in Wonderland through the use of stunning visual projections. We had a tea party with the Mad Hatter and co. at an elongated table, stole tarts from behind Jack’s back, blew Humpty Dumpty off of the wall (yes he had a great fall) and found ourselves in court for the tense finale with the Red Queen. Alice appeared throughout the story, her character reflected through the clever use of mirrors as she desperately tried to remember her name to discover who she was. And of course, what would the story be without the Jabberwocky? Though I won’t spoil that part for you.
Les Enfant Terribles are my favourite theatre company. They produce unique work that is quirky, edgy and exciting, thanks to the winning formula of the creative team led by Oliver Lansley and James Seager. Following on from its sold-out Olivier nominated 2015 production, the latest run of Alice’s Adventures Underground has since had 60 pages added to the script, a grand total of 186 pages, as well as 3 new puppets, extra rooms, 10 new characters and an even higher level of audience involvement than before.
Although the production lasted a healthy 90 minutes, time seemed to be warped as it went too quickly. Like every excellent production, I left wanting more, and having caught up with my sister to find out all of the parts she had experienced on her route, all I could think about was when I could next return to Wonderland in this carefully constructed labyrinth that only leaves you lost for words.
Do yourself a favour, if Les Enfant Terribles have a show playing near you, go and see it.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is playing at The Vaults at London Waterloo until September 23. For tickets visit click here.
Reviewer: Stephen Sheldrake