On the Les Enfants Terribles show “Alice’s Adventures Underground”
Review by guest writer Matt Fairhall
We were running late. So late that my girlfriend and I had to sprint from Waterloo Station to The Vaults so we didn’t miss our appointed slot down the rabbit hole at Les Enfants Terribles wild new show, Alice’s Adventures Underground. As we ran down Station Approach Road, I was struck by the irony of running late for a meeting with the White Rabbit.
This show was definitely worth the run. Breathless, and having literally just made the start, we were ushered into a dark room full of books and weird things as the lights flickered on and off and the mirrors started talking. The experience had begun and I started to feel sick. The spinning ceiling in the next room added to this feeling as I started to have flashbacks of my previous night out back home.
We were soon greeted by the White Rabbit himself urging us to come closer and make a choice – did we want something to eat or something to drink? My earlier run had left me thirsty, so I opted for the drink. It was nice. Others opted for the food. Your choice at this point would determine what you would experience, so if you’re part of a group, I’d recommended splitting up and comparing stories after.
This is immersive theatre for sure, with characters dishing out jobs for the audience to do. After picking up a bottle of something to drink, I walked through the “Drink me” door and was soon being told by a friend of mine that she now had work to do. She was in charge of making sure everyone finished their drinks and put them in the bin. A nice touch.
Once we’d held hands with other members in the audience and traipsed through the dark into the first room, the real fun began. Starting to explore this surreal labyrinth was an absolute delight, and I started to feel giddy with excitement. We were handed special documents for our journey through Wonderland and taught secret calls and signs that would help us keep our heads. The Queen had gone a bit nuts on having people’s heads cut off recently, we were warned.
Stumbling through Wonderland was eye-opening and the attention to detail and atmosphere was striking. Helping the Knave of Hearts fabricate a lie to get himself out of a spot of trouble was a particular highlight for me; so was the kitchen where the chef was throwing food around and yanking audience members out from hiding, forcing them to aid him with whatever he was cooking, even if it did involve standing in a tub and having potatoes lobbed at your feet.
The logistics of this show were impressive, and, despite having to wait a couple of times for other groups to pass through before us, everything worked well. In fact, crossing paths with other groups added to the fun, as we were told not to trust them or make eye contact. That’s one of the things I loved about this production, the feeling of espionage and chaos that abounded in this merry company of saboteurs.
Alice herself was notably absent from this production which I thought a shame at first, but then I started to realise that the audience was basically experiencing Wonderland in her shoes instead. This did work, but towards the end, it started to feel like the narrative thread connecting the last couple of of rooms had been hurriedly cobbled together. No matter though, as going along for the trippy ride was a joy in itself, building up to a fantastic finale. The deranged Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was also a perfect cocktail of unhinged ingredients with its UnBirthday cake and mountain of unwashed, discarded cups and saucers in the corner. I wished everyone in the audience could have stayed there, all drinking tea (should have been free!) and taking in the atmosphere.
I found myself not wanting the fun to end; this is an impressive show with great acting, amazing scenery and you should get yourself a ticket to this party – it’s the perfect hangover cure.
For more from Mr. Fairhall – and all things owls – he’s on twitter @hallsfair.
** Please note there are MULTIPLE entrances to the various productions that take place in the Vaults and the entrance to this show is NOT on Leake street, so allow lots of time to find the venue. Even though this was my third visit to the Vaults in as many months, it was not the entrance in the tunnel which is marked on Google Maps, and it was my fault everyone had to run – Emily