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Monday, 4 May 2015

REVIEW // ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND

Last Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity to head down to the edgy location of The Vaults (aka a disused underground train station) to fall down the rabbit hole and explore the weird and wonderful world of Alice's Adventures Underground. 

Les Enfants Terribles presents...well, I'm not sure how to describe it actually because it wasn't exactly just a play or a show, but whatever it was, it's been over three years in the making! I suppose if I had to liken it to anything, I would say it would have the whimsical fun factor of Slava's Snowshow, with the premise of the London Dungeons (in that it involved exploring a whole other world, moving from room to room to witness smaller and shorter performances that involve the audience). And, with just the right amount of crazy, it felt like being in an episode of The Mighty Boosh.

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It was a birthday present from my sister, someone who always picks things that are right up my street! So we headed into London fairly early. Whilst she went off to get her hair done, I went for my own mooch around Spitalfields market to do a spot of shopping, before we re-united and, after getting lost many times trying to find the location, finally found ourselves ready to submit to this whole other world.

There's not really too much I can say about it all without ruining the surprise for everyone else - I certainly didn't know what to expect in the slightest but was blown away. The whole thing from start to finish was just so magnificent and I found it astonishing just how much the cast, crew and set designers had paid attention to detail. You would have never have guessed that it took place actually underground because it really does feel like you've entered another world. For example, at the very, very beginning as you find yourself introduced to it all, we ended up having to walk through a small walkway, decorated with books, I guess to represent entering the book. Not one thing looked out of place in the hallway. Loose books scattered across the floor, random trinkets hung from the ceiling and it really was put together so well. 

The rest of the show did not fail to disappoint and at parts I found myself thinking how smart these people were to really bring the book to life. I mean you'd never imagine how to make a 'Drink Me' potion shrink you and then lead you through a smaller door...but, they did it. And it worked. You'll find yourself more than likely to be separated from whoever you arrived with in this show as you end up in smaller intimate groups (reflecting the four suits in a deck of cards), although at points the groups will crisscross in various ways.

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Me re-creating my suits special move!
One thing that stuck out for me in particular was the slightly dark and oddball Mad Hatter's Tea Party, coinciding with the brief interval. The show still continues as you take a break to sip yummy cocktails from vintage crockery against a backdrop of what looks like a giant tea party ruined by a storm. Damp books layer the table, wet stones and pebbles cover surfaces and spill out of disused teacups and there's even a rusty old bathtub slap bang in the middle of the giant table! This is used throughout when The Mad Hatter and others continue the riffraff by climbing over audience members to stomp along the table and more.

Depending on your choices throughout, you will end up on a different journey from others and no matter how many times you go, no experience will be the same. Afterwards, me and my sister shared stories and discussed what each other had been up to - she'd seen things I hadn't, whereas I had participated in places she hadn't gone. Despite only being a 90 minute show overall - followed by an excellent after party - it seemed like much longer and like we really had fallen down the rabbit hole for a whole night of fun. It definitely seemed weird returning to normality afterwards and we are already considering going again later in the year to experience it a little differently.

There are various oddball characters and up to 33 individual and impressive sets (which only a small handful you will experience during your journey, which is why I think a second visit is a must!) which reflects the traditional Alice In Wonderland story throughout. Little makes sense as everyone experiences different parts of the story and will have to piece it all together at the end, but this is a fun and unique way to get a real feel of this quirky underground world. And although you may catch glimpses of her throughout, our heroine is barely seen - though her absence isn't noticeable with so much going on.

It's clear to see - Alice is not the star of this story - you are.

Alice's Adventure's Underground runs until the end of August and you can book tickets here.

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