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8th May 2015
Adventures in Wonderland
YOU ARE NOW READING : MR

Adventures in Wonderland
Until August 30th
The Vaults, Launcelot Street, SE1 7AD


 

A friend recommended we seek out the Alice in Wonderland show in the tunnels beneath Waterloo.

It’d be good for the kids and the blog, she rightly observed, to head down The Rabbit Hole.

These vaults are immense and offer some amazing events in a rich and varied (albeit hit and miss) programme. There is a sense of whatever goes on down there being a “happening”, truly immersive theatre with a (literally) underground spirit. You are missing out if you haven’t been there yet.

Our kids are only six. While Alice is not one of our bedtime staple favourites (yet), they do know the basics of the story.  Off we set.

I almost missed the show as was struggling to find the entrance having parked the car, running past the kids re-tagging the tunnels (that spray paint smells so good), getting short with the long-suffering Mrs B as she tried to play GPS. This was the right way to commence proceedings, as I felt like I had entered the looking-glass by the time I scraped into the entrance.

Initially we were in Lewis Carroll’s study. It was a beautiful jumble of Victoriana bric-a-brac. Books books everywhere (covers tile the ceiling and floors), papers tumbling from every possible surface. Glimmering apparitions of Alice and friends flickered from behind dusty mirrors. The attention to detail in the set decoration rivalled that of major feature films. We were instructed that Alice had gone missing. We needed to find her. The game was afoot.

We were led through a hidden doorway into a large, circular hall of mirrors, which then plummeted through several dimensions (the ceiling light display did at least).

An impressively fluffy and wild-eyed White Rabbit appeared. The vaults were warm. He must have been horribly hot, I thought, being so fluffy.

Luckily we were soon offered a drink, now officially inside the rabbit warren – a vial of shrinking potion, to be exact (which tasted suspiciously of “spicy lemonade”, as the Mini-Bs pointed out). We were split into two groups.  Our merry band was led through another impossibly Willy Wonka tiny door by Clubby (a walking Jack of Clubs, our guide).

We were energetically led through the maze of corridors, into set-piece room by room, each a wonder of playful design and mischievous play-acting. There were several surprises along the way, which elicited loving (/cowering) grabs at my or Mrs B’s hand by our children.

I personally felt a very funny drag- Queen of Hearts stole the show, in terms of performance.

A puzzling and aptly deranged Tweedledum and Dee elicited bemusement more than amusement in their particular steam-room. And a haughty, naughty Humpty Dumpty got the littl’uns singing. It all culminated in a grand old tea party – natch.

We all had a blast – nobody could blame the kids for clutching at us in this warped wonderland, which produced just the right balance of sweet and sour, befitting Caroll’s tone but also the age group.

They offer an adult show too but I personally felt privileged to be there with a load of six and seven year olds.

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8th May 2015
Adventures in Wonderland
YOU ARE NOW READING : MRS

Adventures in Wonderland
Until August 30th
The Vaults, Launcelot Street, SE1 7AD



This year, I found out (slightly belatedly), happens to be the 150th anniversary of 'Alice In Wonderland’s' publication. Which with hindsight explains a lot of things:  namely the massive amount of Alice-themed stuff going on.

To illustrate, I had only just bought my ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Opera tickets (for a July show in Holland park), perused the Hermes ‘Wanderland’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, and accepted a ‘Mad Hatter’ birthday party invite on behalf on the minis, when thousands of emails about a (slightly suspicious-sounding) Alice’s Adventures Underground  (specifically in ‘The Vaults’), started plopping into my inbox.

I had absolutely no idea what they were on about. 

Firstly ‘The Vaults’:  what and where are they?!  Were they legal?  Sadly I can't claim to have had any sort of a misspent youth in London, but still not to have heard of a venue seemed curious indeed.

And it got curiouser.

There seemed to be no less than three, similar and yet different-sounding events being advertised, all underground (literally), and all on the same days. Quelle mystery. Well, apparently not actually, as a few clicks later (and with a little help from the minis), the solution had clearly presented itself onscreen.

Alice’s Adventures Underground we called Event 1, suitable for ages 5 to 10, and billed as ‘an interactive, puppetry-packed, fusion of story-telling, music, circus and spectacle’.  

Adventures In Wonderland (Event 2) seemed to be a more grown up afternoon/evening version, inc music and alcohol I imagine, and possibly minus the 'eat me' bag of sweets handed over to us on entrance (or not?).

Which left Wonderland Sessions (Event 3) as a series of (yup) Alice-orientated weekly literary events.  All were held in the vaults under Waterloo station.

So three separate shindigs, of which the first was our click of choice, though I’m sure that the parallel experiences wouldn’t have been too dissimilar in the end, united as they were by lots of tunnels, confusion, and the intense, intrinsic spookiness of the whole Alice thing.

As unsettling it most certainly is. Our group of 20 or so were met by a white-faced and black-suited (clubs) garrulous 'card guide' who proceeded to divide us up (into reds and blacks), and send us through mirrored tunnels and often breathtakingly tight corridors in our quest to find Alice.

We entered a be-papered Miss Haversham style study; liaised with a holographic mirror; shrunk and grew as we drank from tiny bottles and were sent through various doors; sped through corridors lined with books (actual books- having been sternly warned not to step on the cracks); were almost boiled alive in Tweedledum and Tweedledee’s wonkily proportioned bedroom; dodged the high camp of the Queen of Hearts; enjoyed her (jam) tarts; and thoroughly enjoyed (speaking for myself) Mr Dumpty's puns (it’s no yoke. Eggsactly).

The minis were at best taken aback and at worst slightly traumatised by the odder elements of our adventure, though that said were understandably chuffed to have been handed a free bag of sweets on arrival.  We all agreed, though, that it had been enormous fun in the end (though possibly not for the faint hearted).
 

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