I found myself in a room with a checkerboard floor and two doors either side of me- one very large, one very small. Drink me or Eat me I pondered as a walking six of spades held out a small glass vial in one hand and a sugary yellow sweet in the other.
… curiouser and curiouser….
I decided Drink me as I turned left towards the small door and paced cautiously forward, when suddenly the door began to get bigger and bigger until I could walk through it with ease. “This is impossible!” I squeaked a little too loudly, only to receive a somewhat mysterious reply -“Only if you believe it is”- from a talking rabbit. Needless to say that didn’t steady my dizziness from the madness that had just unfolded…..
This small optical illusion was part of the millions of tiny details that made the underground production of Alice in Wonderland outstanding to behold. Performed in 'The Vaults' at London Waterloo, it was a huge undertaking. However, Les Enfant Terribles, a renowned production company, have lived up to their impressive name; with their last performances of the production being this past summer. The entire world of down the rabbit hole was created, and made every single person feel like they were in the children’s book themselves. It did not matter what age you were, for that space of time you were helping Alice escape from the Queen of Hearts and making friends with all the characters on the way. Walking through long corridors completely covered in the insides of books, and meeting the mad hatter at a tea party that seated 80 people seemed totally unbelievable, as you quickly learnt to leave all logic and sense at the door.
One of my favourite rooms was that of the caterpillar, that invited you in to sit on a bohemian style set of cushions as you listened to his tales. In the centre of the room was a tree covered in fabric, and fairy lights wrapped around each of the branches, continuing round the entire tent like structure. The room, despite being hypnotically alluring, was absolutely boiling, and made me wonder how the actors coped with staying in there for more than 5 minutes. After some short research I found that the actors have to do their set pieces up to 36 times in one evening! Drained does not begin to describe how the performers must feel by the end of their shift. Not least the mock turtle, who has to sing and play the piano for hours on end with no break- although apparently there is a wellie nearby for any emergency toilet breaks.
Surprisingly, I even enjoyed it when the performance had ended, and you met back up with your friends in the Wonderland themed bar. Every single person had a different experience, and had witnessed different scenes that you then shared with each other, leaving you want to go again and again (as I did). Everyone had been directly spoken to by an actor in the play- if that was being asked to hold the crying pig baby, or get the red paint for the roses! It was an incredibly personal experience, and one that I don’t think anyone will be forgetting for a long time to come.
If I could ever meet the producer (Emma Brunjes) of this exceptional production, I know exactly what I would say. ‘You’re entirely bonkers! But I’ll tell you a secret, all the best people are’. That is one lesson I learnt from Alice herself.
Original image used