The warren-like vaults beneath Waterloo station in London set the perfect stage for a journey down the rabbit hole in new production Alice’s Adventures Underground, a promenade performance of Lewis Carroll's classic children's story which turned 150 years old in 2015.
The production, by Les Enfants Terribles—James Seager and Oliver Lansley—and Emma Brünjes Productions, had people split into two groups who decide on either EAT ME or DRINK ME. They were then divided into even smaller sub-groups—hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs—before being tasked to find out who has stolen the Queen of Hearts' tarts—and locate Alice.
Each group followed a leader into stunningly-imagined sets and rooms, designed by Samuel Wyer, who truly brought the absurd universe of Wonderland to life in the form of maze-like settings through which you scuttled, furry walls within which secret scenes featuring fellow attendees were witnessed, and rooms in which iTweedledum and Tweedledee, played by twins Nichole and Danielle Bird with terrifying papier-mâché heads, swung from the ceiling, chattering inanely.
Brendan McCoy as Border Guard, Tom Moores as the Knave. Image: Jane Hobson
All the costumes, which used a combination of puppetry, masks, 3D printing, and traditional costume, were brilliantly done—the White Rabbit was particularly striking with its realistic, bulging eyes and head that alarmingly appeared to move on its own—but was most likely controlled by a device in the actor's hand.
In amongst the perplexing madness there were also moments of magical serenity—take, for instance, when we were led into a subterranean cave to watch the Mock Turtle sing a melancholy and arresting song. But then it was back to the insanity as we were given a cup of tea to drink (which tastes more like vodka) as we joined the rest of the 56-audience members at a huge, anarchic tea party at a ridiculously long table.
Mark Stevenson as White Rabbit, Grace Carter as the March Hare and Hayden Wood as the Hatter. Image: Jane Hobson
It ended with a court session with the slightly-scary but also hilarious Queen, played by Lauryn Redding. After this scene, and during the emergence of Alice, you were lead out into the bar wherein you could indulge in Flamingo Croquet and themed cocktails while characters from Wonderland mingled with the crowd.
The only downside was a power cut which meant performances, which are staggered, were delayed on press night. But it also meant a free bar beforehand—which no doubt added to the sense of delirium and in it's own way heightened the chaotic thrill of this extraordinary and hugely enjoyable immersive art adventure.
Abby Wain as Alice. Image: Jane Hobson
Alices Adventures Underground was at The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN from April 2015 until August 2015.