Alice’s Adventures Underground at the Vaults

The Vaults is a unique performance venue, located in disused railway tunnels below Waterloo Station. With almost 30,000 sq ft of space, the scope and scale of productions it can house is immense. Les Enfant Terribles are presenting their reworked adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – an immersive adventure full of surprises and splendour. The script for this year’s production ofAlice’s Adventures Underground is 60 pages longer than the 2015 Olivier nominated show, giving audiences even more of an experience.

The journey into Wonderland begins right at the box office. The front of house area uses the original Tenniel illustrations as an influence and helps to ramp up the anticipation. The bar is stocked with a series of cocktails, all inspired by the story and each with a little twist of magic. This really is like no other theatre experience.

And that is what it is – an experience. When you go to the theatre, you are an observer, watching the action unfold on the stage. Here the cast and creative team have found a way to make a 152-year-old text seem fresh and engaging.  And there is no option to jut sit back and watch. As an audience, you are very much involved in the story and integral to its success.
Audience participation is often a red flag to many, something confined to the annual panto or tourist attraction, but here there is no scary dungeonesque experience, nor are you ever put in an uncomfortable position. The cast are wonderful at making sure everyone is engaged and enjoying the experience without it ever feeling threatening.

Having spoken with Samuel Wyer, the show’s designer, it is clear that this production has been a labour of love for all involved. The creative freedom permitted by Lewis Carroll’s text has allowed the creative team to work in a new, liberating style. The venue itself helps with atmosphere and setting but Wyer’s designs are something Carroll himself would be delighted by.

The 90 minutes you spend in Wonderland fly by and you long for the journey to continue. Every space is one in which you wish you could spend more time (always leave the audience wanting more!) and with so much to see, it adds to the wonder and mystery of the experience. With overlapping stories and an interweaving narrative, it also leaves the audience wanting to come back again and again to experience all permutations.

With every audience and every entry into wonderland being different, no two stories are ever quite the same, ensuring this production stays fresh, fun and fabulous.

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Don Juan in Soho – Review

Don Juan is a character everyone is familiar with. The serial seducer smoothly making his way through life bouncing from mattress to mattress. Driven by the thrill of the chase, Don Juan’s primary objective is to acquire submission from his chosen quarry (even if he has to go as far as marrying them to get them to acquiesce.)

Patrick Marber’s revival production Don Juan in Soho is based on a 17th century Moliere comedy which itself is derived from a commedia dell’arte play. In commedia dell’arte, characters are archetypes, driven by a singular motive – such as money, food or lust. Marber’s Don Juan is indifferent to the chaos that follows in the wake of his conquests, always searching for his next conquest, the more challenging the better.

David Tennant takes on the titular character in this production portraying Don Juan as heir to an Earldom, the typical playboy aristocrat partying his way through his inheritance. While his moral behaviour is abhorrent, Tennant gives the character charm and appeal, seducing the audience. He becomes a loveable rogue rather than detestable. In spite of his indifference towards the women in his life, he readily jumps to the aid of a stranger being mugged and, at times, we see flashes of his humanity shine through. His insecurities of sleeping alone, his reluctance to let his faithful retainer resign, these events show the crutches he needs to support his extravagant lifestyle showing he needs other people (although he will never openly admit it.)

Adrian Scarborough is the perfect foil to Tennant’s straight man. As Stan, Don Juan’s chauffeur and valet, he is permanently downtrodden, undervalued and ignored which Scarborough exploits for every comedic opportunity. He is the accomplice to Don Juan’s activities, basking in the seeming reflected success of his master’s efforts. Scarborough’s character is the one the audience sympathise with and perhaps even empathise. He is the ‘less attractive’, less successful of the double act. His performance is tremendous, portraying a character stuck between what is morally right and his close bond with the incorrigible Don Juan.

The show is fresh and contemporary, having been updated since its premiere a decade ago. There is the odd reference to contemporary events and politics smattered throughout the play but, mercifully, they are subtle and sparse which adds to their effect. Tennant’s rousing speech in the latter half of act II is a direct debunking of modern society. From the obsession with social media and technology through to the lack of privacy we afford ourselves, the speech is a reminder that there is a life beyond social media profiles and that human interaction cannot be replaced. We are drowning in a world where definitions are more frequently blurred – between our public and private lives, between expert information and opinion, between truth and propaganda. The pace and energy of Act I and Act II are so distinctly different it heightens further the plight of our anti-hero. Ultimately, Don Juan must face the consequences of his actions but will he repent and reform?