Alice’s Adventures Underground
Review by Edward Gosling
Alice’s Adventures Underground has previously delighted audiences in the caverns of the Vaults – and was nominated for a Olivier award in 2015. It’s return is very welcome, for all those who missed out on its previous sold out run.
This is more than just a show, this is an experience that captivates from the moment you arrive. The set design, the cocktails, the environment are all built to holistically take you on a journey, to remind you that life can be too serious sometimes and that fun and nonsense are both important and necessary to live. At the entrance, the bar design by Darling and Edge with its big pieces of set and illustrations, feel like stepping into a story book. Drinks are served with a jam tart on top that holds your straw in place.
This review will avoid too many spoilers, but once the story gets going properly, you experience just how clever a lot of the design is.
Entering a lift, which hums and vibrates makes you feel like you are travelling deep underground. It may be impossible, but it feels real and somehow manages to stop on several “floors” suggesting lightning quick set changes.
The pace is phenomenal, as four stories take place simultaneously, meaning you can plausibly go four times and have a new journey each time. That all the audiences move through the space without bumping into each other is an incredible feat of logistics. Magical doors, giant props, décor and oversized puppets are all working together with the actors to bring you into the world of Wonderland. Talking to some of the cast, it transpires there are several versions of each character to enable all of the action to work. The stage managers must work flat-out for hours every night.
The decision by theatre company “Les Enfants Terribles” to limit the role of Alice to certain key moments is a good one, and by telling a new story, the audience takes on her role of discovering the world and the space and characters. The whole production feels fresh, even at the classic moments – such as a tea party, where the Mad Hatter and companions march up and down giant tables, throwing cups and saucers while water shoots in spurts in-between tables.
While the ending is a little bubblegum as everything works out well, the production is coherent and interesting, imaginative and fun. If you go with a friend make sure you choose a different route (drink the potion, eat the sweets) so that you can compare notes in the bar afterwards.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is a lovely piece of immersive theatre which defies comparison and exists to fill the world with a little more wonder.