…In which our plucky young heroine embarks on an epic quest and travels across the realm in her continued search for all things Alice in Wonderland!
As a delayed part of my 18th birthday celebrations, mum and I went to London for ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’, an amazing, interactive experience by Les Enfants Terribles at the historical Vaults underneath London Waterloo. The event itself is taking place to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It was such a fantastic, magical experience and I just loved everything about it so so much! Let’s see what happened…
[Let’s set the scene. The date is Saturday 25th April. The weather is slightly gloomy, but not rainy or cold. Typical English weather – can’t make up its mind.]
6:30 AM: Alarm clock goes off signaling first effort to get up; a lot of groaning ensues but no actual attempt at movement is made.
7:00 AM: Mother enters room and shakes tired teenager awake; efforts to crawl out of bed more successful this time. Breakfast is consumed and supplies for journey gathered.
8:00 AM: Dad drives us to the train station where we collect our tickets. Train departs on time at 8:10 AM.
9:30 AM: After having fallen asleep again on the train I do (thankfully) feel slightly more alert. We arrive at Westbury Station and wait indoors for half an hour for our connecting train. A surprising amount of cute guys seem to catch trains at that time of the morning. Also spotted some… interesting… fashion choices.
10:00 AM: Connecting train arrives. Seated in a ‘Quiet Carriage’ so no phones, but I do get the chance to read fifty pages of The Young Elites by Marie Lu.
11:30 AM: Arrive at London Paddington. Beautiful architecture but sadly quite a lot of it is covered for restoration or something. Also, why make visitors pay to use the toilet? This makes zero sense to me. Is it a London thing?
11:45 AM: Time to catch the tube from London Paddington to Waterloo. It only takes 23 minutes apparently, but it’s so hot down there it feels much longer! Riding those really steep escalators down into the Underground feels like descending into the depths of the underworld.
12:00 PM: We emerge into the open air and decide to stop for lunch. We somehow find ourselves in a loud, dark pub eating some delicious ham, egg and chips. It was also great to take a break from all the travel and read all of the ‘rules’ for the event. Audience participation? Sign me up!
12:45 PM: Time to go and find the venue – The Vaults. Sounds very ominous. As it happens it’s only a short distance away; about a ten minute walk and you’re there. Upon arrival you get a stamp on your hand, a cute little purple pocket watch design! Then there was a chance to buy merchandise and order drinks. Then coats get deposited in the cloakroom and you wait for your group to be called. Honestly, by this point my excitement levels were sky high!
01:45 PM: And the adventure begins! I can’t guarantee the next section will be entirely spoiler free, but omigod it was amazing and I just couldn’t write this post and not review what I experienced!
The first part of the experience was the same for everybody. You started by going into a room that looked like it had been ransacked – there’s random junk everywhere; books, broken pieces of mirror (but it’s all safe I promise!) and other stuff. Then after everyone’s had a suitable amount of time to look around, Alice appears ‘inside’ a full body mirror and basically sets the scene. It’s all very cool. If you’re prone to jumping at surprises, this is where it will most likely happen!
My favourite part though was where you get to choose your own path, so to speak. You get offered a choice between ‘eat me’ and ‘drink me’ and your decision determines what characters you encounter and which plot line you follow. You also get separated further into suits. I was a heart! Classic. What follows is a series of tableaux inspired by the story of Alice in Wonderland ranging from acting to puppetry to acrobatics to song. The Mock Turtle’s ballad was a personal highlight for me and my mum, and I loved the audience interaction incorporated throughout. Even small things like the use of projection and atmospheric lighting had a big impact. And don’t even get me started on the fabulous set design!
At the end everyone is brought back together for the trial at the Queen of Hearts’ court. Her Majesty looked suitably imposing in her regal costume; I’m glad I didn’t have to speak during the ensuing chaos, she terrified me! Before long Alice arrived and the resolution of the story unfolded before our eyes. Nonsense was restored to Wonderland and everybody got to live happily ever after. Yay! It’s not difficult to guess that I’m going to give Alice’s Adventures Underground the full five stars. I just had such a great time, how could I possibly give it anything less?
03:15 PM: That’s it! Over! Nooooooooooooo! Honestly, the whole thing was so so good I just wanted to turn around and do it all over again. We got to spend a good half an hour in the ‘Wonderland Bar’ afterwards eating adorably decorated cupcakes, ‘eat me’ biscuits and drinking Peach Bellinis.
03:45 PM: Time to go. Laugh at me all you want but it took all of my self restraint not to wrap my arms around a table leg and beg to be allowed to stay.
04:15 PM: A quick journey back to the station on the tube. Luckily we just missed rush hour!
05:00 PM: Farewell London! Our train leaves bang on time and I’m left to listen to music on my iPod for the next two hours or so. My playlist that day consisted mostly of Bastille, Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding and Lorde. Bit of an eclectic mix, I know.
06:30 PM: We arrive at Bath Spa where there’s a half hour stop over while people board and the train splits. With only half the carriages carrying on to the remaining stops we have to move seats and (much to my mother’s discomfort) we end up facing backwards, but we’re nearly home now so it doesn’t matter.
07:00 PM: The train sets off again for the final leg of the trip. Having been on my feet for most of the day and up so early in the morning I’m beginning to feel the fatigue kicking in. We’ve been joined in our carriage by a hen party. I spot Mario and Luigi, several nuns and what I think is meant to be a smurf. Judging by the decibel level of their conversation the pre-drinks have already happened. Thus ensues an hour of being serenaded with seventies songs, which injects some variety into an otherwise mundane journey.
08:00 PM: Home again! Dad is waiting to pick us up in the car park which I’m grateful for since the first thing I want to do when I arrive at the house is crawl into bed and sleep. Despite how tired I feel this has been a really, really fun day. Not something I’ll soon forget!