Watch what you put in your mouth. It could make you smaller or bigger, that is, if you’re not careful. Last week, Helen and I had a great time trying to discover what lies behind the Cheshire Cat’s grin. You too can join in the fun but, if you tarry, it will leave you behind!
Photo provided by Conrad St. James
The Mad Hatter would grow a little saner if he partook of the Conrad St. James’ Alice in Wonderland themed Afternoon Tea. It’s exactly how tea should be: warm, inviting and delicious, without much drama unless you are informed that one of the sandwiches would be replaced with something else! As you all know, the sandwiches are my favorite part of Afternoon Tea and I almost got mad as the aforementioned Hatter. Then, before me appeared a “curious” oyster shell filled to the gill (do oysters have gills?) with smoked mackerel pate. One bite and I was hooked. “Please sir I want some more.” I exclaimed, referencing another iconic English protagonist.
The scones were made a bit more yummy with their pink grapefruit curd, but the selection of cakes took the cake: checkerboard chocolate truffle, toadstool-topped lemon tarts, elderflower macarons, and ‘painting the roses red’ mini-cakes. But what was that funny little cookie in my teacup? The instructions said ‘Eat Me’ so I did and then it all went black and I could feel myself falling, falling, falling….
When I awoke, I was Helen reporting on Les Enfants Terrible’s new production. Alice’s Adventures underground….
Photo by Jane Hobson
Punch Drunk, the experiential theatre company, first show was called Moonslave and it involved a number of chauffeured cars driving the audience of four on an elaborate chase across vast distances before tipping them out in a dark, lonely field, where 200 scarecrows burst in to fiery light around them. It’s no surprise ever since we’ve been eschewing the passive viewing, Maltese rustling theatre experience and demanding the immersive.
Thankfully to satisfy this craving this summer Les Enfants Terribles’ performance of Alice in Wonderland has sprung up in Waterloo’s vaults, deep under our city complete with its own psycho-geography of imagination and nonsense. This is experimental, immersive theatre shot through with cuteness and humour. It’s a trip. Literally. And one you should take.
It begins with a beautifully crafted cocktail in, ironically, a theatre setting before being led down in to the world of Wonderland where the Queen of Hearts is puce with anger and your job – what ever suit you’ve been assigned – is to hold on to your head. The story unfolds as The Queen’s Cards usher you through a labyrinthine world of sets – there are book shelves that bend, mirrors that beckon you, passage ways made of book pages, forests of mirrors and rooms of doors.
The set pieces are magical, Tweedleedee and Tweedledum twirl just out of reach, the Mock Turtle talks from the moon through the rain, and the Mad Hatter’s tea party is a unusual chance to sit on tea crates with a hundred people in a exquisitely designed garden under ground.
And then there’s the White Rabbit.
I don’t know about you but I find one of the hardest things about being an adult is not being able to stare i to the face of a human sized rabbit. The actor-rabbit must see the glossy cool exteriors of London’s lawyers drop like hot tarts as he/she implores you to help them solve the Frog-Butler’s riddle. What a curious and curious way to be taken back to childlike wonder, executed with such charm, such strangeness that even the most urban cool cat couldn’t help with being sucked in.
Photo by Jane Hobson
The attention to detail is just staggering, and the joy is wandering through the sets rather than rushing to your location, enjoying the attention to detail the sight, sounds, smells and tastes of this multi sensory experience.
Don’t be a voyeur (unless it’s watching a naughty knave talking about the Queen’s flowers through a fur wall)
Don’t dawdle or even dwindle.
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Best Bits: Travel Cheat Sheet
- Conrad St. James: Alice In Wonderland Afternoon Tea only until May 11, 2015!
The hotel will feature Alice in Wonderland to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the beloved book only until May 11 and then the following teas will be available: St. James’s Glorious Garden, highlighting the best of spring to coincide with Chelsea Flower Show, Summer in the City served with Iced or hot tea and the Autumn Bramble afternoon tea showcases the wonderful tones of the season.
St. James’s Glorious Garden, May 11th – July 11th 2015
Summer in the City, July 12th– August 30th 2015
Autumn Bramble Afternoon Tea, August 31st to November 23rd 2015
- Alice’s Adventures Underground: Only until May 30th at The Vaults, Leake Street, SE1 7NN
NB: I was the guest of the Conrad St. James.