Theatre Review: Alice's Adventures Underground
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"We're all mad here..."
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's infamous story of Alice and her twisted adventures in the nonsensical wonderland, Les Infants Terribles collided with Emma Brünjes Productions to create, well, possibly the best thing I have ever witnessed.
Located in the underground vaults at Waterloo, Alice's Adventures Underground engages audiences within self-determined narratives. It's immersive theatre unlike anything witnessed, taking three years to produce with 33 uniquely designed rooms, that would encapsulate audiences into participating as parts and characters of the story (including finding myself being cooked by the chef in the Queen's kitchen with rosemary, onions and pepper, much to the amusement of my fellow audience members).
It's the type of performance that questions both sanity and whether or not Hallucinogenics were slipped into drinks prior to performance.
The champagne and cocktails offered at the first of three bars sedated teething problems with a power cut delaying the performance by an hour, but to a chamber full of anticipating guests dressed in the required red and/or black, teething problems are nothing.
As Brünjes announced: "saying we've had a power cut is the worst line a producer ever wants to say, especially on a press night."
Invited down the rabbit hole, the audiences, of 56 at a single time (representing a pack of cards), are asked to choose between "eat me" and "drink me" before entering a world of psychedelic fantasy, wit, constant humour, finished off with a sense of uneasiness. Having chosen "drink me" and presented with a vile to glug, the group of now 28 are welcomed to the world of Mad Hatters, talking rabbits, Cheshire Cats, Dumb and Dumbers, Caterpillar Lairs, Queens of Hearts and a plethora of diamonds, spades, clubs and hearts. The groups are then split down again to 14 to represent a different suit.
Myself, a proud ace of spades.
Attention to detail was impeccable, with floors made of hardbook covers and shelves decorated in typical wonderland paraphernalia. Brünjes is far more than a producer, but an artist, storyteller and fellow wonderlander. Characters such as the Cheshire Cat, a rather stoned Caterpillar and an infantile piglet were masterly puppeteered by the actors. Such puppets were created by Max Humphries.
The Mad Hatter's tea party served as a quintessential mantelpiece, piecing together both storyline and audience, finished off with cucumber gin and enough tea to make anyone go mad.
It's a show that should be considered an imperative theatre experience of this year, having been extended until August. Let Alice guide you into madness and find yourself dizzying into croquet kissed nightmares.'Alice's Adventures Underground’ opens at the Vaults, London SE1 (0871 230 1557) on Friday.