New London Dungeon Sneak Peek
Warning this review contains detailed information, spoilers and photographs of the new attraction. Click here to proceed.
This is a report of a “Lights on/Back Stage Questions & Answers Tour” written by UK Park News. If you would like to use any of the images in this article, please refer to our copyright policy.
On Monday 25th February 2013 UK Park News was amongst a selection of news groups invited to attend a special preview event at the home of Merlin’s new ¬£20m London Dungeon site on London’s popular Southbank strip, also home to the EDF Energy London Eye and Sealife centre.
We were welcomed to the venue by London Dungeon’s marketing manager Matthew Clarkson and as people gathered, we were able to enjoy a walk around the sales area while engaging in some friend banter with others, with a glass of white wine in hand.
Southbank Street is the new home of the popular Merlin attraction, previously ¬†housed under the railway at London Bridge Station, Tooley Street. Construction at the new location started over 12 months ago, in what seems to be a well kept secret until it was announced only a few months ago that the attraction was to move.
“All new attractions have been installed and a superior level of themeing has been assured throughout”
The new location offers a number of benefits to it’s predecessor, not least the increased footfall in what is already a very popular tourist location, and what some might now refer to as “Merlin’s Mile”. The new venue also offers a bespoke and efficient use of space which is some 25% larger than Tooley Street, spanning over 3 floors. All new attractions have been installed and a superior level of themeing has been assured throughout the attraction which includes all new scenes to experience as well as keeping some of the traditional favourites.
We were told that special effort had been made throughout to ensure that the customer experience was “authentic”. This was reflected in the high quality finishes such as the numerous different floor & wall surfaces throughout, newly written scripts, costumes and a vision to target a wider audience.
“Fear is a funny thing”
Matthew advised that the slant on marketing has changed to appeal to a wider audience by applying more emphasis on the humour of the attraction, whilst still retaining some of the traditional scare tactics. It was clear though that Merlin has no intention of making the dungeon into an all-out terror attraction with chainsaw wielding maniacs at every turn. The newly relocated attraction now carries the slogan of “Fear is a funny thing”.
The new London Dungeon is now made up of an impressive 18 separate scenes; the whole tour seems much more comprehensive and better value for money, despite the slight increase (60p) in admission fees.
“It’s probably the biggest elevator you’ll ever enter”
Scene 1 – The Descent
It’s probably the biggest elevator you’ll ever enter, capable of moving 140 people at once (though it was confirmed that group sizes will not be anything like this size). The elevator is not all it seems though, and your journey will be full of surprises as you descend. Hang on to one of the support ropes to steady yourself, if you dare. Sounds effects and lighting is put to good use along with the live character to ensure a fearful journey to the bottom.
Scene 2 – Henry’s Wrath
This is where King Henry VIII sent traitors to. Experience cannon fire, water splashes, ravens swooping down to your head and more as you make your way around his boat ride. Warning – you will get wet.
Scene 3 – The City Gate
This is where you meet the Gong Farmer – this character collects poo, and this is confirmed by the authentic scent technology that is deployed.
“The timed explosions, air canon and rumble floor are enough to take anyone by surprise”
Scene 4 – Conspirator’s Walk, Scene 5 – Guy Fawkes
As part of “the gang” you make your way underneath the palace of Westminster, up to no good and plotting to bring the house down. This leads inevitably onto Guy Fawkes with narration from the live actor and the “talking heads”. In no time at all the fuse has been lit and there’s a massive bang, the timed explosions, air canon and rumble floor are enough to take anyone by surprise.
Scene 6 – The Torturer
A dungeon classic, but now with all new scripts and new torture methods to experience. You’ll either be placed on the torture chair, one of the two cages or the new stretch rack.
Themeing doesn’t get much better with real rats and real rat poo.
Scene 7 – The Plague House
Not everyone likes rats, but themeing doesn’t get much better with real rats and real rat poo. Put your head inside the rat chamber or just watch as the “plagued” rats wander around and clamber ropes.
Scene 8 – Coughin’ Coffin, Scene 9 Plague Doctor
A room with some surprises from the coffins which leads onto another dungeon favourite “The Plague Doctor”. All new propts make for an authentic experience as guts & intestines are pulled from the “victim”. Watch out for the bladder.
Scene 10 – Bazalagette’s Sewer
By now guests are in the depths of London’s rat filled sewers and find themselves walking through a disorientating tunnel with suprises at their feet and above their heads.
“Listen to Mrs Lovett before her next supply of meat comes tumbling down the trap door!”
Scene 11 – Pie Shop
Next, it’s time for the group to meet Mrs Lovett herself in her excellently themed pie shop. With freshly baked breads (and a lovely accompanying aroma) guests get to listen to Mrs Lovett before her next supply of meat comes tumbling down the trap door!
Scene 12 – Sweeney Todd
As you’d expect next in line is the Demon Barber himself Sweeney Todd. Take your seat and prepare for the closest shave you’ll ever have. Follow his story as the very seat you’re sat in comes alive to enhance the experience.
Scene 13 – Jack the Ripper, Scene 14 Whitechape Labrynth
Next is a stroll around Mitre Square where guests will no doubt encounter the legendary Jack the Ripper before moving swiftly on to Whitechapel Labrynth (the mirror maze). The group must find the exit, though a surprise water shower will greet them, so prepared to get wet for a second time.
Scene 15 – Ten Bells Pub
Strange things happen here and prices aren’t what they used to be, that’s for sure. Brave a stiff drink in the storm and pray the lights don’t go out. A room with the crazed landlady and possessed shelves will rattle your senses.
Scene 16 – Court Room Judge
Another London Dungeon classic but with an all new script, gags and costumes. Stand trial for your sins, though in this court room, all are certain to be found guilty.
“The unlucky individual will find that the fear of death is too much, resulting in them having an¬†embarrassing¬†accident”
Scene 17 – Newgate Gallows
Guilty guests are led directly to the gallows for their sentence to be carried out. It’s time to be hung but the unlucky individual will find that the fear of death is too much, resulting in them having an embarrassing accident as the crowd of onlookers (the others in the group) cheer for death to come.
Scene 18 – Drop Dead
Formerly known as “Extremis” this all new attraction offers a similar 3-story drop experience from ABC Rides, but now without the need for the initial winch to the top (top-to-drop), making for a more relevant experience. The ride cycle includes a drop, bounce and now a 2nd drop, we were told). The previous drop tower has been removed from Tooley street and is currently in storage at Thorpe Park, but we were advised that Merlin does not currently have any plans to install this elsewhere.
Overall we were significantly impressed with the length of the attraction, number of scenes and opportunities to interact with props/actors, and above all else the quality of the themeing throughout. It’s clear to see why the construction of the attraction has taken almost 12 months, and the transformation from what was previously white washed office interiors is stark.
London Dungeon Southbank street opens on Friday 1st March. Book early to avoid disappoint, opening weekend is expected to be extremely busy.