Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
The Vaults of Waterloo are a fine place for an underground adventure, and Les Enfants Terribles and Emma Brunjes Productions’ new creation, Alice’s Adventures Underground, is a pleasing, if not perfect, tumble down the rabbit hole.
A promenade show based on Carroll’s classic tale, the audience is first required to make a difficult decision: EAT ME or DRINK ME. Only 56 audience members are taken through at a time and once the side is chosen and suit allocated, we’re divided into four smaller groups — spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs — to follow our “suit” leader on a mission to discover who has stolen the Queen’s tarts.
An already impressive space such as The Vaults has been made even more impressive with some truly spectacular set dressings, courtesy of designer Samuel Wyer. We’re led through the unkempt writing rooms of Carroll, scramble through tiny doorways, peek at scenes through peep-holes, join a 60-foot long tea party, have Tweedledum and Tweedledee flying above our heads in a nursery room. We’re handed tarts to eat, tea to drink, and given the opportunity to absolve ourselves of sin to the Queen herself. There’s also a stunning interlude where we find ourselves in an underground water cave, listening to the mournful Mock Turtle sing his heart out (played by the excellent Thomas Sutcliffe on our visit).
Small audience missions and exchanges will please those seeking interactive theatre (although obviously, recipients are chosen at random), but nothing too arduous so as to terrify the more reserved visitors.
It’s chaotic, humorous and full of surprises. Just as Wonderland should be. But where Alice’s Adventures Underground falls down somewhat is in the transitions between these spaces. Other groups are encountered in corridors as we are taken from scene to scene, there are brief standstill periods as we wait for rooms to vacate ahead of us, and other than a couple of exceptions, the corridors are not nearly dressed to the same standard as the main rooms.
The pricing is as ambitious as the surroundings, at £35-£47.50 for a standard ticket. Lovers of alternative theatre who are willing to pay for it will find much to love here, and although Alice wouldn’t be Alice without the mayhem, we feel a bigger dose of organised chaos would have taken this production to the next level.
Disclaimer: on the night we went, there was a power cut in the area that halted our journey part-way through and required a wait before it could resume. This was handled well by all characters and staff we encountered, and the above review is based solely on our experience once the issue had been resolved.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is at The Vaults, Launcelot Street, SE1 7AD until 31 August 2015. Tickets cost £35-£47.50 depending on the day and group rates are available. There’s also a children’s show, Adventures in Wonderland, and a series of live events with guest speakers at The Wonderland Sessions. Visit the website for further information. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.
Read more: The Curious London Of Alice In Wonderland