Unleash Your Inner Alice At This Wonderland Of An Exhibition At V&A

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, V&A ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 38 months ago

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Last Updated 20 May 2021

Unleash Your Inner Alice At This Wonderland Of An Exhibition At V&A Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, V&A 5
This is one trippy tea party. Photo copyright V&A.

Want to play croquet with hedgehogs, join a psychedelic tea party and get lost within the words of Lewis Carroll and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Then step through the V&A's looking glass and enter an exhibition that's so vast it made me wonder if I'd drunk the same potion that made Alice shrink.

Just like Alice's journey the exhibition starts off anchored in reality with plenty of background on Charles Dodgson, who would adopt the pen name Lewis Carroll. Artefacts show how the world was in Victorian England, including a Dodo skeleton and scientific instruments that would have all served as inspiration for Dodgson.

Fashion inspired by Alice includes an undulating dress. Photo copyright V&A.

Then I follow the white rabbits on the walls and head deeper into the surreal, through a door I have to duck to see inside — and a silent film inspired by Alice with some impressive ghostly visuals, given it was filmed back in 1905. No film section would be complete without the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland and there's a clip of the beautifully animated scene where she's chased by the guards of Red Queen through a maze.

Modern technology gets a look in too with a virtual reality experience where Alice-inspired illustrations by artist Kristjana Williams inspired are woven into my journey down the rabbit hole. I use my hands to toss hedgehogs through croquet hoops, have 'off with her head' screamed at me, and eat mushrooms to grow tall. It's a wonderfully trippy experience that's intuitive and a lot of fun.

Well that's not creepy at all. Photo copyright V&A.

It's stunning to see how much the worlds of Lewis Carroll have inspired — including menu items by Heston Blumenthal, a dress surrounded by a kinetic, undulating halo, and a room full of surreal art where a creepy projection of the Cheshire cat grins down at those who enter. Add in a room soundtracked by White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, and this truly is a wonderland.

There are plenty of theatrical set-pieces, including a table that curves up the wall and the projection on it ranges from psychedelic to lots of ticking clocks, and the show ends with a mirrored room where words from the stories spin all around me. The V&A's got a spot on balance of having a lot of exhibits across a wide range of subjects, mixed with a deeper immersion into Alice's surreal worlds through trippy installations. So whether you want to examine the details of John Tenniel's original illustrations for the books, or stand inside an alcove as Alice's tears rain down on the screen around you, this show is guaranteed to make every visitor leave smiling like a Cheshire cat.  

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser is on at V&A from 22 May - 31 December. Tickets are £20 for adults and must be booked in advance.