A Hop Across the Pond for Fforde Ffiesta


At FableVision, storytelling comes in many forms – animations, games, websites, comics…the list tends to grow with each new project. It’s good to step outside our own walls, however, and see how other people are embracing creative storytelling in formats both familiar and foreign. Conveniently I recently got a chance to do just that.

For years, my parents and I have attended the vaguely-annual Fforde Ffiesta in Swindon, England. But this time, we had a special detour to make beforehand: Alice’s Adventures Underground.

Housed in the tunnels and vaults beneath Waterloo Station in the middle of London, Alice’s Adventures Underground is not so much a retelling of Alice in Wonderland as it is a brand new interactive adventure that takes place in the same world with the same characters (as well as some extra ones). It’s an experience that, in the first ten (out of about 90) minutes, leads you through an immaculately-detailed study, squeezes you down corridors entirely covered in loose book pages and then, just to keep you on your toes, asks you what number it’s thinking of.

During the rest of my journey, I was directed by the Cheshire Cat to spy on other attendees through a hole in a fuzzy wall, serenaded by the Mock Turtle during a rainstorm, and wheeled around on a luggage cart by an over-caffeinated March Hare (portrayed in this Wonderland as a flapper). Through the whole thing, the cast of characters chattered eagerly in fits of roundabout logic that would make Charles Dodgson proud. Eventually, the story came to a climax in the Red Queen’s Court, and the whole group was released into the royal bar, where we were met with colorful cocktails and live music.

The next day, it was off to Swindon for the Ffiesta – a small convention put on for (and by) fans of author Jasper Fforde. Attended by about 200 people, it featured such events as an audience-participation version of Richard III, a game show called “Evade the Question” and a reading by Jasper himself from his upcoming novel. If you’ve read any of his books, you might be familiar with Jasper’s fondness for literary jokes and repurposings (the thermodynamic inconsistency of the Three Bears’ porridge, for example, was a major plot point in one of his Nursery Crime entries). That fondness carries over to his fan base, driving attendees to good-natured yet sharp competition in a poetry contest, a radio-play-writing challenge, and a talent show. The winner of the latter event had turned the plot of Macbeth into a full-length rap song. Meanwhile, an unexpectedly powerful last-minute entry involved a woman reciting Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias” to and with her grandson.

The trip was short, but invigorating. I loved having the chance to experience so many narrative-based events – great reminders that there are always more ways than you expect to immerse yourself in a good story.

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