Way before I moved to London my sister had been to see a show she knew I would love, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see of before it ended. She described the interactivity, the imaginative design and the immersiveness to me with such excitement I was disappointed to have missed out. That show was Alice’s Adventures Underground, a take on the Alice in Wonderland story that takes you right down the rabbit hole. Well the show is back and at one of my favourite venues, The Vaults, and I attended press night last week to see if it lived up to the hype.
For the uninitiated amongst you, The Vaults is a performance venue near Waterloo Station that takes part inside the many archways and underground tunnels. Every show I’ve seen there is totally different, the space can be completely transformed based on what the show needs and does with it, it could take up just one area in a sort of traditional theatre space as when I went to see Miss Nightingale recently, or make full use of all the tunnels like Goosebumps Alive. When I first walked in on this occasion I was instantly transported, as the box office/ bar area takes you right into Wonderland. The whole area is transformed, there is no area left un-themed. The bar serves beautiful Alice themed cocktails (including one that comes with a jam tart and one that changes colour magically), some food offerings and a croquet area that you can play with your own flamingo. Not only this but there are entertainers throughout the bar, performing circus skills, chatting with guests in full character and selling you solid cocktails. Soon it is your time to enter the adventure, as you line up with your group ready to go.
In terms of the show, I don’t want to give too much away as this is a performance that is best off being left to surprise you itself, but if you saw Goosebumps Alive during it’s run here then this works on the same kind of system, unsurprising as it is the same production company. This is not a sit down and watch show, it’s very interactive, you will be on your feet walking from scene to scene much of the time and there are four different shows happening at once. Once your group reach a certain part of the show you will be split into four groups and each group is shown a different part of the story, experiencing different scenes, meeting different characters and taking on different rolls, before re-joining together at the end. If you want to see the other shows then you need to grab yourself a ticket and come back again another time, and trust me these performances leave you wanting to do just that! Expect the unexpected, prepare to be amazed at some of the best set and costume design around and just go with the flow and you will have a blast. This truly is a performance for all the senses, and yes I do mean all!
This isn’t your average re-telling of Alice in Wonderland, it’s got it’s own, unique twist on the story that plays well here. There’s a clever use of tech and precise timings that keeps this moving like a finely oiled machine, and the company have it down to perfection. If I hadn’t seen Goosebumps Alive I think I would have been blown out of the water, but between the two I think Goosebumps worked better. Maybe it’s the horror aspect that meant that loud noises and music kept you completely drawn into the scene you were in, but there were a couple of areas in this performance where I struggled to hear what the performers were saying over the sound of footsteps from other audiences going overhead, or other characters shouting from other scenes near by, which took away from the immersiveness a bit.
As well as the crazy visuals, tricks and upside down in your face craziness of some rooms, there are others like the Mock Turtle’s Song scene that are stripped back, quiet and moving. This slowed down snapshot left me totally amazed at the special effects, without it being an attention grabbing spectacle. This show probably isn’t great for really young children (there are times when it can be a bit scary and the ‘real-ness’ of it I can imagine being a bit too much for some) but I don’t think you can actually be too old.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is on at The Vaults until 23rd of September, I was invited to the press night as part of the Love Pop Up’s-London group.