BritishTheatre

Published on

April 27, 2017

REVIEW: Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vaults ✭✭✭✭✭

By

julianeaves

Alice's Advenrtures Underground at The Vaults London

Phillippa Hogg as Alice Alice's Adventures Underground

The Vaults, Waterloo

Tuesday 25th April 2017

5 Stars

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If you see nothing else this year, see this! It is a hallucinogenic wander through a maze of brilliantly realised spaces, evoking scenes and adventures from the eternally attractive Lewis Carroll Alice stories, and it is one of the most delicious experiences I’ve had in a long time. It doesn't ask you to look back nostalgically on your youth, so much as re-awakens it and gives it back to you, kicking and screaming on a plate in all its innocent wildness and trusting love. Back for another long sit (till 23rd September) at Waterloo's arts hub beneath the tracks, and boldly re-written since its first 2015 outing, the show is like no other I have seen. The team of Oliver Lansley (writer, director and producer), James Seager (director and producer) and Emma Brunjes (producer) – and a vast army of creatives, technicians and consultants - have improved this to become Les Enfants Terribles’ most extraordinarily successful, truly immersive experience; nearly all the labyrinthine tunnels of the Vaults have been pressed into service to house the corridors, rooms, halls, gardens and courts of Lewis Carroll's opiate-induced phantasmagoria of the human imagination. The results are sensational.

Alice's Advenrtures Underground at The Vaults London

Alex Gilbert (Queen Of Hearts) and Sam Hoye (King)

Equal to the capacious venue, a massive cast of 39 actors, plus assorted 'other crew', make up a constantly changing roster of teams of key players from this picaresque tale, who shepherd groups of between thirty and a dozen or so punters at a time through a randomly chosen pathway. Such 'tours' set off into the Vaults approximately every 45 minutes, and the show runs 90 minutes: therefore, there's plenty of variation in what each party experiences. Added to that, the format of the ‘show’ includes multiple fragmentation points which encourage divergence from the conventional thrust of the narrative. This makes perfect sense to me: when I read the books ('Alice In Wonderland' and 'Alice Through The Looking-Glass') as a child, I never had the patience to do as the book told me to: 'Begin at the beginning and then go on until you reach the end and then stop'. No way could I possibly read books like that! I knew perfectly well that the adventures were more dream than reality, and dreams are what one falls into in sleep. Once in the land of dreams, I knew that each moment is intense, exquisitely vivid and - almost - 'real', before it segues with complete plausibility and naturalness into something it in absolutely no way resembles. And that, as it turns out, is precisely the approach taken here.

Alice's Advenrtures Underground at The Vaults London

Alex Gilbert (Queen Of Hearts) and Sam Hoye (King)

Although the overall shape of the narrative is preserved, book-ended by the Fall down the rabbit-hole at the start and the Trial (with a surprising twist) at the end, between these two points any number of different combinations of scenes are served up to each group, and each sub-group within each group.

'Alice' is an apparently very simple story, that is nonetheless very easy to get wrong in adaptation. A long, long line of extremely intelligent and creative artists, one after the other, have tried, when adapting her travails into another form, to recreate the special magic of the books. Yet, time and again, the elusive magic of the story manages, somehow, to slip from between the interpreters' fingers. One could be forgiven for having doubts about the possible roadworthiness of this concept, setting the story in the grimily urban, brick vaults that hold up one of the busiest railway stations in the world, let alone London: were it not for the thrilling debut the show made in 2015.

Alice's Advenrtures Underground at The Vaults London

Richard Booth (Frog)

Expectations here are more than fulfilled. They are trumped! This turns out to be simply the best possible experience. It is a magnificent gamble that pays off: a kind of huge, rambling, anarchic dream of the novels, which – through some remarkable means, gives back grown up visitors their childhood. But how? I think it’s because we, the audience, are placed in the centre of the story: at the beginning, Alice speaks to us, but in disembodied form. Following the guidance of some of the other characters – notably the White Rabbit, and the Playing Cards, we are forced to take upon ourselves her journey, following the haphazard paths her own carve through Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass. The story takes us over, first physically, by making us ‘Eat’ or ‘Drink’ this or that, and finally by occupying our minds and imaginations enabling us spontaneously to adopt the role of the protagonist in this stunning recreation. In other words, the brilliant cast, and the staggering production (resembling more a sequence of film sets than anything you might find on a stage), transport us not just into unfamiliar, strange and challenging locations, peopled by weird and fantastical creatures and personages, but deep into the hidden recesses of our own psyches, where we meet – like Alice does – not just the alien and peculiar beings of these fictional realms, but an even odder construct: ourselves.

BOOK TICKETS FOR ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND

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The British Theatre website has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse theatrical culture of the United Kingdom.  Our ethos revolves around encouraging and nurturing the performing arts in all its forms. The spirit of theatre is very much alive and the British Theatre website is at the forefront of delivering news and information to audiences and enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of theatre journalists and reviewers are working hard to cover productions and news.


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ABOUT BRITISHTHEATRE

BritishTheatre.com
Opening Night Media Ltd
3rd Floor, 80 St. Martin’s Lane
Covent Garden
London WC2N 4AA

The British Theatre website has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse theatrical culture of the United Kingdom.  Our ethos revolves around encouraging and nurturing the performing arts in all its forms. The spirit of theatre is very much alive and the British Theatre website is at the forefront of delivering news and information to audiences and enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of theatre journalists and reviewers are working hard to cover productions and news.


We are constantly developing the site and are always open to receiving feedback from our readers. Join our mailing list to be kept informed of all the latest news that is of interest to you..