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5 July 2017


a few weeks ago, it was ben's birthday. not any old birthday, his big-boy birthday. thirtieths are hard enough, but when the birthday boy is quite particular about his things, it makes it all that little bit harder, and i wanted to make sure i got it right. we had been chatting over time about what he might like to do for his birthday, and other than booking a few days away by the seaside, a few other ideas popped into my head; especially when he mentioned in passing that alice in wonderland was one of his all-time favourite books.

i wondered if a mad hatter-themed afternoon tea would be his sort of thing, and thought about scouting signed first editions and the like, but knew i could do better. we talked about theatre tickets - he wants to see the lion king, and of course, i chastised him for never having seen it, but again, knew i could do better. and then... it hit me: i'd been to see the les enfants teribles' sell-out run of alice's adventures underground when it first came to london, and remembered loving it. that would have been the perfect thing to take him to see, but that was such a long time ago that i wondered if it was even still a thing. a quick google told me that yes, it bloody was, and so i did the thing and squealed with excitement, knowing i had totally nailed the brief.

i sort of had assumed that immersive theatre was his cuppa tea (he's an art-school kid, of course it was going to get the seal of approval), so booked us tickets for the week following his birthday. booked, in fact, for the hottest night of the year so far. so, that was going to be a fun experience! i had to keep the secret for soooo long before i gave him the tickets moments after midnight on his birthday, and his cool, calm, collected exterior dipped a little, and i knew he was buzzing for the show!

i mean, it was nominated for an olivier award the first time around, and i'd read that they'd upped the ante for this run; the moment we stepped inside those vaults underneath waterloo station, i knew i was in for a wild ride. it was totally different to how i remember it being, and i was totally in awe of the art and set design in the reception room/holding pen they keep everyone in prior to the show. of which there are many, every day. we were there for the 7pm show, and come 6:55, we were off.

from the minute we tumbled down the rabbit hole, i didn't stop smiling. from meetings with mr. w. rabbit, humpty dumpty, the cheshire cat, the knave and queen of hearts - and then alice herself, we were led from room to room in the incredibly-designed set, being told stories of plots against the queen, asked to help deciphre codes, challenged to spy on other groups of participants, and thrown right into the story itself. i'm not going to tell you more than that, because truly, it's something everyone should experience themselves.

and, if you're worried about being picked on in one of those awful immersive theatre ways, don't be. these actors are some of the best stage performers i've ever had the pleasure of seeing work, and they are so engrossed in their characters that they make you feel totally at ease, and actually want to participate. i honestly could not hype this show enough, and implore you to check it out for your next theatre outing. it will actually blow your mind.

oh, ps. he bloody loved it.

check out timings and ticket info here.

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