A Queen screams across a tannoy about her missing tarts; a grinning Cheshire cat blinks at you sideways while a white rabbit hurries past looking anxiously at a butter-smeared watch.
Welcome to Wonderland. Well actually, welcome to Waterloo, where Les Enfants Terribles’s ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’ has taken over the Vaults under the station for a summer of wonderful weirdness.
The show is one of several Alices tumbling down rabbit holes in the year of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, but uniquely it removes our heroine pretty much entirely from the frame. Instead it places the audience centre stage. It is you who falls down the rabbit hole and decides which direction your adventure will take; will you ‘Eat me’ or ‘Drink me’?
Alice’s absence is felt, but not for long. It’s just much too much fun exploring this strange new world. Samuel Wyer has created a labyrinth of topsy-turvey nurseries, chequered corridors, smoky fabric yurts, stately throne rooms and a Victorian greenhouse, which hosts a tea party so wackily hipster it wouldn’t look out of place in Cereal Killer Café.
It’s pretty impressive, even for a city knee-deep in immersive experiences. What works so well is the marriage of company and subject; Wyer’s design is immensely detailed but it is enticing because everywhere is tinged with the signature macabre Victoriana of Les Enfants Terribles. Their mixture of the grotesque and the beautiful is a perfect fit for the occasionally disquieting Wonderland.
It’s also unusual to have such a strong narrative thread, albeit a fittingly nonsensical one. There’s a whiff of espionage to writer and co-director Oliver Lansley’s adventure; the Queen is ruthlessly trying to impose order on her world of cards and as you weave your way around her oppressed land you soon find yourself taking sides.
The cast of 30 have delicious fun with creations ranging from the menacing Cheshire cat – whose grin is brought marvellously to life through puppetry and an array of heads – to the sweet, lisping Knave of Hearts.
After such a merry dance, acclimatising to ‘normality’ might be tough. To help you, there’s a bar offering courtly cocktails, reasonably priced pies, a flamingo croquet set, a hedgerow maze and live music, as you’re gently wafted back from Wonderland to Waterloo.
Source: Time Out