Alice’s Adventures Underground: an Exercise in Postmodernist Deconstruction

By NikitaNemygin, May 5, 2015

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

There is a theatre show loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice adventures going on every night in The Vaults space under the Waterloo station. If you have a possibility to go – I say, do it. And here is why.

Being hugely moved by last year by Punchdrunk’s “The Drowned Man” I decided to try interactive theatre again and bought my ticket before the reviews went out and getting pig in a poke (that pig being obviously the Duchess’s baby).
The take-home message I got from the Drowned Man was how dull our lives actually are for the keen eye from the outside. Our brains register only the most important events and condense them in time to make a captivating novel that is our memories. Meanwhile the reality consists of such action-packed things as reading a book, waiting for the bus, doing your daily grooming routine and so on. The creators of the show were well aware of it and slowed the action down to allow the audience to switch their attention to another character.

The creators of the Alice in the Underground take a different approach. Unlike “The Drowned Man”, it is not free-roaming; the events that happen to us are timed. However the core idea is the same – rigid timing of each cycle, interactive nature of the performance and the seemingly spontaneous action. The show follows in the footsteps of Carroll’s masterpiece, but does not copy it. The action is familiar enough to those who know the initial text in order to feel comfortable, enough alien to hold attention, and enough interactive to get emotionally invested.
Great news is, this approach works.

alice (1)

The book does not have any kind of crowd in it as the scenes are mostly set in an intimate setting (apart from the scenes in the court), so some adjustments were needed to include the spectator. The audience becomes a deck of cards and partakes in the events representing four different suits. The changes made are a clever deconstruction of the two original text, plus some adjacent source material, like Walt Disney’s animation or even the little feature called The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland.

While modernism looks to access the parts of our lives to where the artist has not yet advanced and discovered, post-modernism de-constructs these gains, devours it and creates its own world where there is place for everyone. Its objective is to create new out of something already existing, so that the customer was more invested and touched when seeing something they already know.

This approach is successful – but it cannot fulfil the longing of those, who seek revolution every time they try a new piece of art.

Alice in the Underground is a post-modernist absolute, a trendy set up of an interactive theatre, which is based on recycling the pieces of something else: other lives, other media.

Judging by the ticket sales and “beamish” reception, this approach works – perhaps, because it appeals to the fact that we, as human beings, are as well recycled from pieces of other lives, other media.