We arrive and are given playing cards and papers, identity and instructions for the evening, by representatives of the Wonderland Department of Border Control, Tourism and Timekeeping, suitably decked out in playing card regalia. I’m the Queen of Spades, and I join my suit, nervously waiting at the door to wonderland. The clock strikes seven, feathers float down from an upstairs window; strange machines lurk and whisper in the corners and a white rabbit appears, suitably frantic.
Welcome to the Story Museum, where there’s a revolution in wonderland, and everybody is invited! His introduction confirms our darkest suspicions about wonderland, but nevertheless we follow the quisling rabbit up stairs and through battered upstairs rooms, past art installations, plates of biscuits, random art activities and dark conspiracy.
The extrovert adults and older children soon warm to the task, moving into the action and ad libbing with verve. There’s plenty of space for the shy to hide at the back, but the smaller children find some of the scenarios and characters alarming.
A marvellously lugubrious Sarah Finigan as the caterpillar and Michael Wagg’s tragic rose painter stand out, but my highlight was a hilarious croquet game featuring Louise May Newberry and Tom Giles as a surprisingly moving brace of fondly battling hedgehogs, with Kas Darley playing a spectacularly supercilious flamingo.
Each suit takes a different route through the story, and as we proceed through revolutionaries and royalty and wonderland creatures we hear the sound of drama behind closed doors, and see dark hints of betrayal, misery and the heartless consumption of innocent seafood. But don’t let this slightly frustrating sense of the missing out on the four other story lines happening in parallel discourage you; if you visit again, you can request a different suit, and see the rest of the story.