Just a few weeks ago, our class ventured underneath Waterloo Station, to the Vaults, where we experienced immersive theatre in Les Enfants Terribles’ creation and production of Alice’s Adventures Underground. I had never been to any kind of non-traditional theatre before, especially not like this where there are often different paths and stories that each person or group can take, and I was quite nervous…for some reason I was expecting it to be something like the incredibly scary, haunted corn mazes that pop up around Halloween. However, my group thankfully only had one creepy encounter with a rabid animal in the Forgotten Forest (shout-out to Proud ’19 for having that can of worm food).
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning. The first scene our group walked into was Lewis Carroll’s study, where we had about ten to fifteen minutes to explore every inch of it ourselves. The detail in this area was insane, and this remained constant throughout each of the rooms that I explored (explains the ticket prices… no wonder it took the company three years to finish the 33-room set)! Anyway, back to Lewis Carroll’s study. There were piles of books everywhere (they were all superglued together, I checked), distressed pictures of dead animals, real handwritten letters, and a small, covered room with a UV light. After we had a bit of time to explore, and were all starting to wonder what would happen next, an actress playing Alice appeared on one of the mirrors in the room and began talking to us as she moved all over the room, bouncing from mirror to mirror. Then, some of the stacks of books swung open, to reveal an entrance into a maze that led us to a completely-mirrored room mirroring a toy that some of us had seen at the V&A Museum of Childhood. After that, we were introduced to the White Rabbit, one of the many famous characters we would meet from Wonderland. We were given cards as our large group was split into two smaller groups, based on whether we chose to eat or drink. I was thirsty, so I chose to drink.
I went to the left and was joined by a few other people on the London program, as well as the White Rabbit who informed us that our group was the Rebels, revolutionists fighting against the Queen’s evil dictatorship. After experiencing a rather interesting (and somewhat terrifying) elevator ride, we got off and met the Cheshire Cat who then divided us up based on the suit of our cards (either clubs or spades for the Rebels). At one point in that room, Proud was taken from the rest of the group to go on her own personal adventure (where she received the worm food that came in handy later on as mentioned above). We moved from room to room as a group of our fellow suits, and formed relationships with the actors who seemed rather great at improvising (us clubs had a rather excited kiddo in our group). The clubs got to meet Tweedledee and Tweedledum and spent a lot of time sitting on comfy, plush, inflated mushroom-seats with the Caterpillar before meeting up with everyone for tea. We were all led to a tea party a near the end, where we all sat at a really, really long table: it was quite the spectacle! After that, we were led to our final scene, in the Queen’s Court where we all had to sit based off our suits and the story came to a close.
I found myself wishing that the night could have went on longer, I didn’t want it to end and found myself disappointed by the (rather abrupt) ending. I had such a great time, it was definitely a fun experience. I would love to experience immersive theatre again, as I really enjoyed the unpredictable feeling of it. I like that it involved each of the five senses, and enjoyed trying to piece together the entire story with the rest of the people on the program during our theatre class. We all had somewhat different and personal experiences, and that is what I think made this play, and I imagine immersive theatre in general, so exciting.
Alice’s Adventures Underground is playing at the Vaults until September 23. Standard ticket prices range from £39.00 on weekdays to £54.00 on weekend nights. Premium ticket prices range from £56.50 to £71.50. There are also afternoon performances for children and families running until September 3. For more information please go to https://www.alice-underground.com.
-Kayla Frank, ’18