REVIEW: ALICE’S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND (The Vaults) ★★★★★
From the cocktails to the costumes, every detail of Alice’s Adventures Underground is intoxicating.
It’s a revival of the Olivier award-winning hit 2015 show, but it’s had far more than a new coat of paint – this Alice is dizzyingly magical. The adventures take place in a wandering labyrinth of rooms and tunnels constructed in the deep, dank vaults beneath Waterloo station.
It’s hard to know how to describe this enchanting show without ruining any of the surprises. A throng of characters bring Wonderland to fizzing, riotous life around you and whisk you off on a journey – quite literally, you won’t sit still for long. You will make decisions, embark on missions, choose your side, prove your loyalty and, of course, take tea. This is immersive theatre with heart – but, as you would expect from Wonderland, that heart is joyously silly.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is a triumph of nonsense over grown-up-ness, inviting you to loosen up, let go and get stuck in. It’s easy to get lost in Wonderland – your senses may deceive you and there will almost certainly be times when you wonder what’s going on. But the cast are experts at making you feel just safe enough – you’ll always know where to go next and no one is made fun of or made to look or feel stupid.
Created by Les Enfant Terribles and produced by Emma Brunjes Productions, this show is a masterpiece of design and detail. No expense appears to have been spared to create an all-encompassing sense of magic and mystery. There are gorgeous puppets, operated with real skill by the cast, and the production also makes stunning use of projections. The world they have created is sensual and touchably real, with playful details to delight you at every turn.
It boggles the mind to imagine how you would go about directing such a large cast in this complex, sprawling show with its myriad overlapping plots, but Oliver Lansley and James Seager have done a fantastic job. The timings are tight, the acting is fresh and spontaneous and the whole thing fits together into a satisfying, cohesive whole – even though each individual storyline only sees a quarter of the show.
Having experienced Alice’s Adventures Underground once, it’s very tempting to go back for more – to make different decisions, meet different and characters and see different parts of Wonderland. This show offers true escapism of the best kind – don’t miss it.
Reviewed by Annabel Mellor
Photo: Rah Petherbridge Photography
Alice’s Adventures Underground plays at the Vaults until 23 September 2017