Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (V&A)

For its latest blockbuster, the V&A explores the origins, adaptations and reinventions of a global cultural phenomenon. Olivia Buckley reports.

Few stories have had an impact as wide-ranging as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and now the V&A is launching a major exhibition based on Lewis Carroll’s beloved tale.

The exhibition will explore the vast array of cultural interpretations that have emerged since the book was first published in the 1860s.

Set to be the V&A’s landmark exhibition for 2020, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser will allow visitors to journey down every Wonderland-related rabbit hole imaginable and will be, by their own account, ‘one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever staged’ by the museum.

Divided into five sections, it will cover everything from the origins of the story to modern adaptations of the classic tale, with over 300 objects from a variety of mediums to be on display including Carroll’s original handwritten manuscript. Utilising a mix of props, digital projections, immersive environments and theatrical sets, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser is intended to capture the imagination of visitors of all ages, marking the second V&A exhibition aimed at both adults and children after the successful Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic (2017-2018).

The exhibition will begin with the Creating Alice section, transporting visitors back in time to Victorian Oxford to learn about Alice’s roots by way of everything that inspired Carroll as he was constructing Wonderland. Filming Alice will then plot the story’s journey on screen, drawing upon costumes, scripts, film clips and more to bring the cinematic interpretations to life; beginning with the earliest film adaptation in 1903, particular focus will be given to the influential Disney film of 1951, as well as Tim Burton’s more recent blockbusters starring Mia Wasikowska in the titular role.

The third section, Reimagining Alice, places the more abstract concepts of the story and their cultural interpretations centre stage with an exploration of works from artists including Salvador Dali and Yayoi Kusama and musicians like The Beatles. Visitors are to be immersed in a vivid digital reimagining of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and will even be able to try their hand at flamingo croquet.

Staging Alice will examine the fluidity of Alice’s story in its interpretations on stage, with a broad display of costumes and props from the most notable theatre, ballet, and other live productions from around the world. Finally, Being Alice will delve into the modern-day appeal of Alice’s adventures, highlighting the ways in which the story maintains its cultural significance over 150 years after its creation through application in everything from fashion and art to political protest.

Masterminded by Tom Piper, the award-winning designer known for extensive work at the V&A and Royal Shakespeare Company as well as his famous poppy installation at the Tower of London, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser will inspire children and adults alike on their very own adventures into Wonderland. The journey, which will be both figurative and literal – visitors will physically enter the exhibition by descending into the rabbit hole and leave through the looking glass – will also reward inquisitive instincts, with secret doors and displays set to excite even the most curious of visitors.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser will run from the 22nd of May until the 31st of December 2021 at the V&A. More information can be found here.

-London's Best Events-
What: new exhibition
When: spring 2021
Where: The V&A