The Mad Tea Party
As someone watching the Mad Tea Party as an outsider, this fiasco of general madness,
lunacy, and all-round absurdity is as entertaining and confusing as it gets. As Alice, it must
have been as frustrating as frustrating can be as tries in vain to tell her story and find out
where to go next. This memorable scene is known today for its surreal imagery and
eccentric characters. Even the very reason for the Mad Tea Party is a celebration of the
According to the Mad Hatter, he tried to sing for the Red Queen at a celebration, but,
unimpressed with his performance, she sentenced him to death for ‘murdering the time.’ He
escaped his punishment, but Time itself was still sore at him for the ‘attempted murder’, and
as such, halts himself in respect to the Mad Hatter. With time halted at 6:00pm, the Hatter
and company decide to make the best of it in the form of an everlasting tea party.
In arguably the most famous movie adaptation, the 1951 Disney version, Alice finds the Mad
Hatter, March Hare, and the Dormouse after encountering the Cheshire cat in the forest.
Drawn in by their singing, she seats herself at the table. At first, the Hatter and Hare are
upset by her ‘rude’ behaviour, but she’s soon welcomed to the party after complimenting
The tea party becomes an increasingly crazy affair when the characters tell Alice that they’re
celebrating their collective un-birthday. As everyone knows, according to the March Hare,
everyone has a birthday every 365 days, but every other day is an un-birthday and just as
worthy of celebration. Alice explains that in that case, it’s her un-birthday too.
Next, the Hatter asks Alice what information she was looking for, but just as she tries to
answer, she’s interrupted by a ‘clean cup’ routine. This happens again and again, much to
Alice’s frustration, who just can’t seem to get a word in. She eventually leaves the party
chasing after the White Rabbit who shows up, has his watch destroyed, and is
unceremoniously evicted from the party.
The entire mad sequence is sometimes seen as a commentary on the rigid social norms and
expectations of the Victorian era. The characters aren’t bound by the same social rules, and
their behaviour is entirely dictated by their craziest whims, freeing them from convention.
Feel free to invite yourself to the Mad Hatter Tea Party on rails at Churnet Valley Railway.
It’s all of the fun and silliness of the real thing, minus the throwing of hot tea through the air.