Alice’s Adventures Underground 2017

Two years after I first ventured down the rabbit hole at Alice’s Adventures Underground, I returned with some friends to make the trip again. The acclaimed show has returned for 2017, and I knew I wanted to participate again.

Everything I originally said about the production still stands: the storyline, the attention to detail, the costumes and the performances are all excellent. This time I chose the “Eat Me” route and had an experience that was very different from my first. I finally met Humpty Dumpty and the Mock Turtle, as well as the Frog Footman. Just like the first time, I had lots of fun.

My friends and I ended the evening with a drink in the bar and a quick game of flamingo croquet. If you haven’t experienced this wonderful show, please do while you still have the chance!

The Wimbledon Time Portal By Stella Artois

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If you think the Time Portal is an attempt to promote Stella Artois and Wimbledon, you are probably right. However, it’s also lots of fun and well put together. Immersive theatre group Les Enfants Terribles – responsible for last year’s magical Alice’s Adventures Underground – have created a 40-minute adventure that takes you back to Victorian London. To 1877, to be precise, the year when the Wimbledon tournament was first held, and the Belgian beer Stella Artois was introduced to Britain.

When you first arrive at the venue in Dalston (make sure to arrive in plenty of time to drink your first complimentary glass of Stella), you hang around in the bar until your appointed time, at which point a genial tennis fan introduces himself. He takes you to his time machine and sends you back to 1877, at which point the adventure proper begins.

The performance takes the form of a quest for a tennis racket, and it’s really impressive how much it manages to pack in. The measure of any immersive theatre company is how well they manage to, well, immerse you, and considering the show was only forty minutes I was impressed by how quickly I managed to feel a part of things. I actually do put this partly down to the booze – I honestly think it helped to loosen everyone up and make them more amenable to joining in. During my short stay in 1877 I managed to meet Sherlock Holmes and Ebenezer Scrooge, watch a magic show, learn the art of pickpocketing, get arrested and watch the very first Wimbledon final.

The world Les Enfants Terribles has created is gloriously detailed, from the Victorian market stalls to the costumes of the actors. Any fan of Victoriana would love the show. At the end, you are spilled out into a basement bar where you can choose to remain and watch the tennis if you so wish – if not, you can do what I did, head home with a grin on your face as you remember the fun you’ve just had.

Alice’s Adventures Underground

The Vaults beneath Waterloo Station once again play host to theatre: this time, it’s an immersive, site-specific production based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Some might call Alice’s Adventures Underground more promenade theatre than immersive, but I found that the character interaction and the sense of participation made it one of the most immersive experiences I’ve personally had.

Put together by Les Enfants Terribles, the production has been incredibly well thought-out. You arrive at the entrance to wait in a holding area at the bar, hand stamped with a little clock, and are encouraged to check your bag into a cloakroom. I didn’t, but with hindsight I probably should have, as you do need to squeeze into some narrow spaces, and it’s easier to do this unencumbered. Once your ticket time is called, you queue up and are led outside and around the corner into a beautiful Victorian-style study, strewn with books and photographs, echoing Lewis Carroll’s own interests. This room is a masterpiece in itself, and I wish I’d had more time just to look over the details, including a curved bookshelf that defied all logic, and a two-way mirror.

Entrance down a book-lined passageway and a trip “down the rabbit hole” follow, until you meet the White Rabbit himself and are invited to “Eat Me” or “Drink Me”. From here you are separated from the rest of your group, as there are two different routes around Wonderland (becoming four later on), until you unite for the final scene and come to understand why this is the case. I don’t want to give too much away about the rest of the production, but I loved it – I was able to meet some memorable characters from both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, including the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, the Knave of Hearts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Duchess. Not forgetting the famous Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which took place in one eerie and atmospheric vault and featured the Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse. The two books were blended together very well, I thought, and the addition of the new storyline worked well within the existing framework.

Alice herself is absent from the journey you take, but glimpses of her are present throughout, eerie and affecting. I didn’t think the production suffered by her absence; indeed, it fit so well into the story that I couldn’t imagine it any other way. The final scene, which brought everything together, was affecting and very well done. The costumes and detailed sets were stunning, the logistics of the whole thing astounded me, and I loved the puppetry.

From reading other reviews of the piece, it’s become apparent that not every journey around Wonderland sees everything – I didn’t meet the Mock Turtle or Humpty Dumpty, for example. I took the “Drink Me” route this time; If I get the chance I would love to visit again before Wonderland closes at the end of August and take the “Eat Me” route, which I think would deliver an entirely different experience. Though it’s only halfway through the year, I’m sure that Alice’s Adventures Underground will be one of my theatrical highlights of 2015.