Hertfordshire & Beyond: Alice in Wonderland

[Aimone Sharif | Sports Manager]

If you live in London and you’re a Time Out reader, or always on the lookout for original activities to do during your summer, you have most probably heard of Secret cinema’s re-enactment of the Star Wars adventure. Well, that same company owns Alice in Wonderland located in London Waterloo; an adventure that follows the footsteps of Alice into the strange environment that is Wonderland.

When I was asked to work at “Alice in Wonderland” at first I was confused, but then I excitedly realised it’s an original, weird and special job title. So when I blindly said yes, I ventured into two whole months of cake selling in a dark room illuminated only by fairy lights and fluorescent flamingos that were painted on the walls.  I was amazed by the decor; they had hung cards up on the ceiling and the walls (even in the bathroom), everything was red, black or white and they had decorative leaves everywhere. But enough of the aesthetics.

The Work Experience

A typical first day would start with me or my colleague getting the stock and the make shift table from the back. On my first day I was doing my thing, singing along to one of the songs that had already infiltrated my head and when I look up someone was standing behind me…Yeah it was pretty scary, especially because they were dressed up as a card and their face paint was on point.

When I was at the back, I saw everyone rushing around, especially the actors. It’s actually perfectly normal to run into the rabbit that is suitably always late, or for the queen to come out of nowhere just to scare you because it’s fun (I am very cautious of corners now).

Our stall was located in the Queen’s Gardens , where every group would end up after the show and were greeted by Alice. She would thank them for saving her and ask a couple of questions about the rabbit and, if by her horror, they had met the Queen. Alice would explain that the Queen’s Gardens were a place where people were “welcome to stay as long as [they] like and not to worry because the Queen doesn’t come here anymore, not since [she] beat her at flaming crocket.” This was said every time Alice ended the show and left to greet the next scheduled group.

How the shows work

Our sales would go two ways because of the different types of shows; on weekdays we only catered for the children’s show but on weekends we had children’s shows and adults shows. The shows last 1hr and they are scheduled for every 15 minutes.

For the kids show, the parents would eye our selection of biscuits and cupcakes (that admittedly looked good), cakes and refreshments desperately hoping that their child would not see the goodies because they would have no choice but to buy something. It was fun working with the kids as they were hyper, weird, and excitable, not to mention a good asset for sales. The adults show was different – they were quite boring.

In the Queen’s gardens, there was an iPad fixed to a card and it was programmed to make fun time lapsed videos for the guests to have a souvenir. For the children’s show, flamingo crocket was set up and for the adults show a maze was open and for those who ventured inside they hopefully would come out into a bar where specific ticket buyers would get a free drink.

Alice in wondeland AimoneImage: Aimone Sharif

The show was an experience to have fun and enjoy your day out and I think the whole set up, with the extra things you could do, guaranteed a good time for everyone. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday evenings they sold pies and hosted free music events – the bar was open and it was an opportunity to relax from work and chill with some free music.

What was it like to work there?

When you work at least six hours per day in a dark and extremely hot room serving pernickety people, you have to have a minimum level of communication and solidarity with the people you work with. When I first entered the staff kitchen, they were all speaking Turkish. When they realised I was there they all stopped talking at the same time, I could literally hear a fly buzzing around casually. But as the days went by I got to know the workers and I can proudly say I am fluent in Turkish… Ha-ha just joking I can say “Su”, but that’s enough right?! What else do you need but water in this place?

My Mexican colleague and I became close, to be honest we were both stuck and bored in the same place. There is an undeniable bond that is created when two people share the same experience for a certain amount of time. It’s actually quite nice to dream, to travel all over the world with someone that has become your Hispanic older sister.

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Image: Aimone Sharif

In every working environment there is always some sort of music. We had that too. The music was a playlist of 12 songs put on shuffle and repeat all day. All the songs were from Disney movies, so I of course Shazamed (yeah that’s a word now – no?) every single song so that when a parent would ask me where the song came from I would know immediately.

“You must love Disney!”

I was told…Ah! If only they knew. Half of the songs were really depressing actually, “When she loved me”, “our town” (I actually like that one) and “baby mine”. When I finished work all I could hear was those songs playing in my head and I even dreamed about them, so when I went back to work it was like the music never stopped. Sometimes it actually felt like home.

I’ve been very critical so far but seriously I actually enjoyed working as a cake seller in the weirdest place in London. I was working alongside a great group of people making my days a lot easier when you see familiar smiling faces. I did not get the opportunity to see the show but my colleagues did and I heard it was just amazing; made so simply yet with an underlying complexity that can only be achieved by rigorous organisation. The costumes were wonderful, the makeup was perfect every day (some people would arrive at 9 just to have their makeup ready for 11) and the actors were always in character, even after the show when the groups arrived in the Queen’s Gardens.

I have watched the whole show from the back; the chaos, the last minute solution to a potentially destructive problem, the staff running around everywhere from 9am, but when I see the smiles on the people’s faces, their amazement, their excitement about the whole show, I know that at the back it’s always a chaos that the customer should never see, and that’s where the magic happens, and that’s what I was part of.

 

And you know what?! I worked at Alice in Wonderland!! I will never get bored of that sentence, seriously.

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Image: Aimone Sharif

Does this sound like a work experience you would be interested in? Let us know at @TridentMediaUK, and stay tuned for more Hertfordshire and Beyond blogs!

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Hertfordshire & Beyond: Alice in Wonderland