The story of Alice in Wonderland has an enduring place in popular culture because everyone — adult and child — relishes the idea of an otherworld that’s accessible through an unfeasibly large rabbit hole, where the boundaries of reality blur and magic takes hold. First published in 1865, the story is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
And now you can journey down the rabbit hole for yourself as part of an immersive theater event called Alice’s Adventures Underground. For about $55, you can suspend reality for 90 minutes while you walk through wildly decorated subterranean vaults below Waterloo Station in London. The show tries to capture Lewis Carroll’s dazzling mixture of logic and nonsense, with guests tasked with searching a psychedelic playground for Alice. After choosing the “Eat Me” or “Drink Me” entrance, you are shepherded through chambers that change in size, thanks to clever sets that incorporate optical illusions. Tweedledum and Tweedledee swing on trapezes above your head, and Red Queens battle glowing Cheshire Cats. The idea is that no one ever sees the same show twice.
“The appeal is that you go down the rabbit hole and be Alice yourself,” Les Enfants Terribles producer James Seager, who sees himself as a Mad Hatter, tells OZY. He specializes in creating unique theater events, and wants to bring a linear narrative to immersive theater to help engage people as they move through the story. Alice was challenging to create, he explains, as everyone comes to it with certain expectations and associations.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
The Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland
“We want to make adults feel like kids,” Seager says. “You’re much more active, a foot away from the actors, and it’s amazing to see the costumes up close.” A red-and-black dress code is enforced, to help put people in the mood. Curiouser and curiouser! And there’s a lot to observe — 250 people worked to create the event, and there’s a nightly cast of 42 actors and nine crew members.
Of course, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Blogger Aarti Jonas from Mrs Jonas Recommends told OZY that while she found the spectacle hypnotizing, the production was too hot, and too much “moving around” was required during the show. Needless to say, if you prefer to sit in a seat and watch a performance, this immersive theater experience is probably not for you.
But those who do make it through the tunnels become honorary Wonderland citizens and receive membership to the themed bar (it’s $8 for interlopers), where they can enjoy a Mad Hatter’s tea party and play flamingo croquet. There are also Monday night Wonderland Sessions, where Alice experts from all fields — prima ballerinas, artists, researchers — discuss their work and experiences.
Alice says, “I can’t go back to yesterday — because I was a different person then.” But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Now who wants to go down the rabbit hole with me?
Why you should care
It’s your chance to “go down the rabbit hole and be Alice yourself.”