I had the very pleasant experience of being able to join Bikeminded’s Alice in Wonderland cycling tour on Friday evening – and what a wonderful experience it was!
I must begin this review by first stating that cycling isn’t something I do often. Although I do enjoy it (and often rent bikes when on holiday in some low-key and relaxed destination – but that’s holidays for you!), the thought of cycling on London’s busy roads scares me just a touch.
But it was on Friday evening that I picked up a Boris Bike from one of the nearby docking stations and made my way down to Cremorne Gardens in SW10, doing a few practice “runs” on some of the backstreets there to get myself reacquainted with a bike and cycling on the road.
Cremorne Gardens is a lovely little green space right by the River Thames, and was a great setting for the start of the tour. As the audience – or participants – gathered for the tour’s 7pm start, we were all ticked off the list and given a little bit of guidance (those on Boris Bikes, that is) by the friendly marshalls that were to accompany us on that evening’s tour.
The evening’s performance started as we were ushered in to the Gardens themselves by some of the characters for the first scene – and an introduction to Alice herself. Following an inventive take on the famed Eat Me/Drink Me part of the story, the riverside setting also provided a humorous introduction and exchange between Alice and the play’s Mouse character.
Off on our bikes for the first time, we navigated the area’s streets with ease – with the marshalls providing wonderful help, sometimes stopping traffic where necessary, and making sure we all kept together as a tidy group. We certainly received some bemused looks from pedestrians, as well as the clientele of a Chelsea pub enjoying their end-the-week drinks, but that all made for a more enjoyable experience. (Cycling past a bus stop later in the journey, I did also amusingly overhear one lady say to another – “Oh, I think they’re teaching them how to cycle.” Not quite, my dear!)
The second part of the play took us to a Chelsea playground, which proved the setting for one of the most interactive parts of the evening – chucking sweets at Alice trapped in a “house” (part of the playground) before linking hands to be lead around the park and in front of more interactions between Alice and other characters.
Off we headed on our bikes again, this time cycling through Brompton Cemetery (which, I would like to add, is a total must whether you’re on a cycling tour or not!) before reaching Earl’s Court and a stop to meet the Duchess in a very pretty mews there.
Cycling on to Kensington proper – with a brief foray onto the High Street – we reached Holland Park for the final scenes of the play, including the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (nicely set in the Park’s ecology centre), the croquet scene and the trial over the theft of the Queen’s Tarts. The backdrop of Holland Park was a fantastic addition to the performance, not least being lead through the (real-life) rose garden and encountering some of the Park’s most famous residents, the peacocks – who were thankfully quiet at the time.
Throughout the evening we were given a number of sweet treats as part of the performance (strawberry tarts at the Mad Hatter’s tea party; chewy mushroom sweets for when Alice eats bits of a mushroom), which certainly added some additional charm to proceedings. Although the actors travelled between scenes separately to us, we were joined throughout by Alice, making us feel properly immersed into the play.
All in all, an incredibly fun experience to have taken part in – a very unique bicycle tour combined with some thorough enjoyable interactive theatre elements. All credit goes to both Bikeminded – for commissioning the tour – and the Exquisite Folly Theatre for their fantastic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
The Alice in Wonderland evnets were the conclusion of a series of tours run this summer by Bikeminded, with previous events in 2011 including those of a spooky variety – a Ghost Tour for Halloween – and the far less scary Coffee and Cake Cruise. More great tours and other cycling events are sure to be announced in future, so do keep your eyes peeled. And do also make sure to join a tour (if not more than one) for not only are they very enjoyable, they’re also a superb way of getting to experience a slightly different side of Kensington and Chelsea.