Books, Fashion

Alice’s Adventures Underground …

And everywhere else!

Flamingo walls. Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

Flamingo walls. Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. April 2015.

Since September, I’ve been feeling a bit lost in Wonderland—or, in my case, London. It’s a place so much like home and yet so strangely different in its details that I find myself feeling a bit like a wandering Alice in a new mad world where I’m never quite sure if I’ve slipped through the looking glass forever or if I’m just searching for the best path home.

And then, within my wonderings, I began to notice that London has developed its own Alice fever… the girl is everywhere from emerging patters and silhouettes and color themes in fashion to afternoon teas (1,2,3,4), to advertised events across the city (1,2,3,4,5), even stamps! It’s only recently that I discovered why:

2015 is the 150th Anniversary of Alice and Wonderland’s first publication.

The celebrations are bigger than any un-birthday the Hatter and Hare could ever come up with… but many are probably just as mad.

Of all these events, the maddest of them all would have to be the interactive experience worth visiting again and again: Alice’s Adventures Underground.

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. April 2015.

I was able to attend this event last Saturday, in what one site led me to believe was the last weekend, and it was an amazing evening. And, luckier still, the event is NOT over. In fact, it’s running through August, which means I’ll be lining up to go at least one more time.

This event has multiple parts from a children’s show, a literary talk series, the interactive experience for up more grown up folk and a club area that stays open later each of which has a separate ticket and therefore price—make sure you’re buying for the right thing! (The children show is for children; no adult permitted without child—check that ticket!) In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Interactive show.

Since this is ongoing and who knows which of you might be gearing to go out, I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll tell you a little more about what you are in for than the main website does:

So, what you’ll learn from the website is that this is an interactive show based on the works by Lewis Carroll where you’ll get to explore a unique version of Wonderland by being part of it, all located within the bowels of The Vaults under Waterloo station.

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. April 2015.

When you pick your time, you should be aware that you MUST arrive 15 minutes before that allotted time (again, this is on the site), however, if you want to have something to drink when you get to the in world tea party (you must prepay and preorder before going in to the show), get in the right mind set, have a pre-show drink, go to the bathroom, check your coats and bags (it costs 1 pound each checked item), or anything else you feel you need to do, get there even earlier. It’s also a little bit crazy trying to find the entrance so set out earlier than you think you do; you’ll thank me later.

There is also a dress code: you are in the land of the Queen of Hearts so it’s all red and black. Please, guys, for me (yes, this is begging) stick to the dress code! One thing I hadn’t realized before this adventure was that I’m an Alice. My wardrobe would be fit for playing the character, all blues and collars and with my blond hair and petite frame, even the actors played with the resemblance! Still, there were a few blues popping in and out of groups and it was the biggest pain as someone who was embracing the whole experience. Seriously, enjoy the night and go all in—it’s more fun that way!

Like I said, you have to check your coat and bag, but I encourage you to keep cash on you. You are let out into a great space where you can get more drinks and some food, and while you can go back and get your stuff and return to eat, it’s just easier if you have the cash stashed on your person. And it’s hot down there, so keep your layers light.

Now onto the stuff they don’t tell you:

The set is amazing and you will have choices as you interact within it. You enter in through this maze of boxes which let out into a room full of artifacts; pictures hanging from the ceiling, book shelves climbing the walls at impossible angles, mirrors and toys. Take a wander and explore—it’s not exactly a museum so you can touch, just don’t disrupt anything. Beware: don’t get too close to the walls as the doors are hidden and spring open to let you down the next passage ways.

Storytelling wise, you are entering Wonderland after Alice has come and gone, her name and person is a banned subject. The black cards (the clubs and spades) are part of an uprising in Wonderland, fighting to take down the King and Queen of Hearts, the reds (Hearts and Diamonds), on the other hand, are solving the conspiracy. Each suit will follow its own adventure—even coming in a group won’t guarantee you’ll all stay together so you should choose if you want to try sticking together as much as you can or all meet up at the end of the line.

If you are anxious about talking to characters or being approached, you should be aware that it’s possible that this is going to happen. You can either fight through or, if you are struggling, an actor will help you out. Even then, you very rarely have to do anything completely on your own. Don’t not go because you don’t want to be singled out—it’s worth it, I promise.

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. April 2015.

When you do get to the end, don’t think this is just a room with a band, besides the wandering characters (who are definitely worth having a chat or to with), live music and food, there is a maze that leads through to a second bar as well as the makings of a royal flamingo croquet course for you to play with some friends through the “PIES” door and up the stairs. This is also the only space besides the pre-show room that you are allowed to take pictures in—yes, of and with the wandering characters as well.

That’s all you’re getting from me, at least, for now. Let me know with a comment if you have any questions and I’m sure to answer what I can. Also, here’s a master list I found with other Wonderland inspired events going on through and further out from London, so check your local listings.

Remember: It’s a mad world and we’re all mad here, but the best people usually are…

–Taylor Gallagher

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Event Review: Box Tale Soup’s “Casting the Runes”

Near the end of reading week I had the pleasure of taking a quick train ride out to Bath to run around for the evening and take in a show.

Specifically, the dramatic and most fabulously done “Casting the Runes” as performed by the duo company Box Tale Soup.

To start, the play took place in the Mission Theatre in Bath which is a decent space with very friendly people who are very willing to help you with anything you need. However, my friend and I ended up having to stop and ask for directions once or twice after a slight misdirect from the main box office.

The theatre feels almost like it’s on the outskirts of town with a shot of a parking structure out the front of the theatre and surrounded by at least on hole in the wall where—after the show—a rather rowdy group of gentlemen were drinking their night away. I’m not sure if they were staying the night, but my friend and I definitely picked up our pace heading back into the main thoroughfare!

The actual show was amazing and definitely a thriller.

Official poster of Box Tale Soup's "Casting the Runes"

Official poster of Box Tale Soup’s “Casting the Runes”

“Casting the Runes” is a one act adaptation of M.R. James’ short story of the same name (with a few alterations and additions including some moments pulled from James’ other works). The story (as told by Box Tale Soup) of Edward Dunning, a scholar (and sceptic) of supernatural phenomenon, whose life is quickly turned upside down (in short) when he receives a strange strip of paper covered with runic lettering.

Whether or not you know James’ work, the show put on by Box Tale Soup tells this story in a truly thrilling  and (at times) terrifying way that holds you transfixed and unable to look away from the on stage (if only for fear of something sneaking up on you in the dark!).

Part of what makes Box Tale Soup so unique as a company and an experience in the brilliant dynamic between the two human actors as well as the truly terrifying and brilliantly thought out use of props and puppets (only one for this production!).

That’s right: PUPPETS!

In many instances, I know, when a person thinks of puppets they think of children’s toys and shows. Casting the Runes is one major exception. This puppet, playing the role of Mr. Karswell, is a speechless figure draped in a flowing black cloak and hat with a white almost featureless face save for piercing, glowing green eyes which sent a chill down my spine every time it made its presence known on stage. Both its use and design were flawless as were each costume and seen change set to a sung rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and I will never read that poen the same way again!).

The tropes set up is a two person team (a lovely married pair of actors) who travel around with all their props packed up into easily portable suitcases which allow them to do pop up shows pretty much anywhere and in any kind of space.

All in all, I highly recommend this spooky stage adaptation and will hopefully (if time and money allow!) be seeing this couple again later this year for their award winning adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abby” which I’ve been told is a must see.

–Taylor Gallagher

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