I know I haven’t posted in a while but work has been manic! Now it’s settling down (a little) I just couldn’t not tell you about what I got up to this weekend. A very close friend of mine booked tickets for something way in advance and only revealed to me a couple of weeks ago what it was we were going to be doing. On Saturday we got the train to Waterloo and walked the short distance to the Vaults theatre. I had heard of this place before but never been. It holds all sorts of events, plays, musicals, club nights, themed balls you name it. But what we were going for was something completely different and it’s called Alice’s Adventures Underground.
We’d watched the trailer before we went and we read the fantastic reviews but we still weren’t completely sure what it was going to involve. We turned up 15 minutes before and we were told to put our bags and coats in the cloakroom, which I wasn’t expecting. We left the entrance and went through a separate door outside into a very dark room. There were about 50 of us wandering around this very old-fashioned room, with no exit. Classical music was playing on the record player and we took our time studying the setting, desks and books were everywhere and a number of objects you’d find in an upper class Victorian gentleman’s study. The music then stopped playing and Alice appeared in the mirror. The bookshelf that just so happened to be next to where I was standing opened up and Alice told us to go through. It was a short but winding corridor that led to a round mirrored room. This then led on to another room where a man dressed in a white boiler suit with a huge black spade painted on the back was sitting by a small table in between two doors, a big one and a small one – I think you can guess where this was heading…. After telling us that we were late he called on someone who had apparently been waiting for us and man in costume with a HUGE rabbit head appeared. We had to make a decision, either choose the drink me door, or the eat me door. My friend and I chose Drink Me, so we took a little vial of what tasted like pineapple juice and went on through to another corridor. So the group had then been spilt into two. The rabbit then gave me (I was at the front of the line) a pack of cards. But these weren’t just a normal pack of playing cards, they were identification cards and as the line walked forward I distributed them, one to each person. Mine was five of spades…
This was one of those experiences that you find it hard afterwards to explain to people who weren’t there, so I’ll try my best for you. The group was split up once more after a performance from the Cheshire Cat, formed by two people and a huge grinning cat head. It was remarkably cleaver and effective how then danced gracefully about to make it as though the cat was disappearing and appearing again on the opposite side of the room. We were split into out suits so all the spades went through one door and the clubs through another. This meant splitting from my friend but we were already so involved and enjoying so much what was going on that it didn’t bother us in the slightest. The guy from the room with the doors then led my group and informed us that we were part of the rebellion against her majesty and we had one veryyyy important mission that would help bring her down- EAT HER PRECIOUS JAM TARTS!! We went into more rooms, met more characters from the famous novel including Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum who had been locked away in a mental asylum by the Queen for speaking nonsense (as she wants to outlaw it from the land.) We also met Bill the Lizard, the Duchess, the Cook, the caterpillar and the Queen’s personal tart maker. We went to the larder and whilst one member of our group distracted him, the rest of us stuffed the tarts into our mouths. We made a quick exit and the alarm sounded. We came face to face with Humpty Dumpty, a personal favourite of the Queen’s. We blew him off the wall and he fell to his death and once past we arrived at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. This was set in a huge warehouse like room with extremely high ceilings and had a massive table in the middle of it with broken china and soil on it. We were reunited with the other groups at this point and the Mad Hatter, the Hare and Dormouse performed a scene like just from the book whilst we all sat round and watched. The last part involved us all sitting in a court room in our suits where the Queen addressed us and explained that we were there because of the stolen tarts. Witnesses were called to the stand and it then became clear to me and everyone else that each group depending on what suit of cards you were, depended on what journey you took and what characters you met along the way. More importantly it also depended on what purpose your group had to the story, e.g my group the spades, were responsible for the stolen tarts and assassination of Humpty. The Hearts on the other hand were supporters of the Queen and my friend’s group, the clubs, assisted us in the stealing of the tarts by delivering them to the larder at a particular time. Even though I was very impressed by how clever the whole concept of it was in the first place, but once this had been revealed to me I was even more impressed. It all ended with a giant Jabberwocky puppet operated by two people storming through the court room, ending the Queen and Alice who was still stuck behind the looking-glass had remembered her name and could now step out from behind it. That marked the end and we were led out to the Alice in Wonderland themed cocktail bar.
The whole experience lasted about 90 minutes which was the perfect amount of time for it in my opinion because you’re constantly moving, constantly engaged and you wouldn’t want it to go on for too long because by the end you feel tired! The acting and voices I had guessed would be fantastic and they were. The puppets used for the animals were wonderful and the sets in each room, so much minute detail had gone into them that it actually made you feel as though you were in the story and that you were in wonderland! But these things wouldn’t have felt anywhere near as real without our own involvement in the story. The actors do an incredible job to get you involved. They talk to you but only as though you’re the same as them, it’s not like in a pantomime where they treat you like an audience. They did single us out now and again and used our names but they didn’t make me feel uncomfortable and I didn’t feel embarrassed when they asked me to do things in front of this group of strangers. I perhaps wouldn’t recommend going if you have no interest in the original story because then I don’t think you’d appreciate the whole experience. And I also wouldn’t bother taking someone that doesn’t like to get involved. It’s one of these experiences where you need to let your hair down and just enjoy it no matter what age you are. In other words, don’t bother taking someone who’s uptight! However, I can without a doubt say that I’ve never experienced anything like this before, it’s so different and if you like going to the theatre then this is definitely something you should experience!