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  • Jon Bolitho-Jones

My time in a Dungeon - Working for Merlin Entertainment


So far during my life as a writer/actor/theatre/whatever person I have worked in a variety of different locations. I have mentioned before how I spent a couple of years at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, however I have also worked at another well-known attraction: The London Dungeons. As that last blog entry was so popular I thought I would do another one, and list 18 facts about his weird and spooky place. Don’t worry, like before there are no spoilers. Don’t want you to be too relaxed when you visit…

1. The London Dungeons currently sits near the London Eye, in between other Merlin attractions such as Shrek’s adventures, and Sea Life.


2. I thought it was on Tooley Street? I hear you ask. That is correct, it was there from 1974 to 2013, when it moved. It has changed quite a lot over the years.


3. There are multiple Dungeons all over the world. You can find them in York and Edinburgh, along with Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco, and even Shanghai. Though a few characters can be found in all of them, they all have their own region specific shows.


4. There’s loads of work to do before you even get there. This isn’t just hiding around corners and jumping out and scaring people. No, there are a load of scripts to learn before you start. One of my characters had 3 versions of the same scene.



5. You end up doing the shows so many times you can recite them in your sleep. Beth has had some eventful nights. One time, half asleep and mid scene, I tried to stand up out of bed pulling the bedcovers with me to use as a cloak. Another night I sat up and said “Where have all the people gone?” In my head I had just had a full group of tourists in the room who’d just vanished. Beth was not very pleased with either of these.


6. Is it scary? Well yes, but not too scary. It’s more what they call “scary fun”. A lot of it is very creepy, but there’s a lot of humour too. Quite a few jump scares though so be careful, but it’s nowhere near as intense as some of those scare attractions that pop up around Halloween.


7. Please don’t bring your tiniest kids, or any kids if they are of a nervous disposition. Same for adults. It is up to your family to make that call. It’s a walkthrough attraction where you are guided from one character and scene to the next, with no immediate exits. If you want to leave the actors have to summon someone to pick you up which at times can be tricky.


8. Please don’t bring any buggies or pushchairs. It just makes everything so difficult for your group and the characters you meet. Why are you bringing your babies anyway!?


9. Every actor there plays almost every character in the Dungeons. There are a couple which are gender specific but a part from that we generally do everything.


10. We all do our own make up. In fact it’s the only sort I know how to do. I would be rubbish on Rue Paul’s drag race. Take a look at my handiwork…



11. When it’s quiet it is delightful. When it is busy it is knackering. You end up doing those same 4-6 minute shows over and over again. The trainers, team leaders, and managers spend a lot of their time rushing around looking after us.


12. We hide water bottles everywhere. Sometimes we have no rest time between shows so we need to snatch drinks whenever we can. There’s lots of handy hiding places amongst the sets.


13. The Dungeons and Shrek’s Adventure are right next to each other and share a lot of the same facilities. In fact it was a regular occurrence when I was there to go into the breakroom and find an ugly sister, or Princess Fiona sitting next to a 19th Century prostitute or a plague doctor. They however have their make-up done for them.


14. It’s dark. So dark in fact that I always headed to my positions early so my funny eyes could acclimatise to it. I lost a contact lens in the Guy Fawkes scene right when I started and never found it. It is dark for a reason – some of the tricks rely on it, so no unnecessary lights, and especially no flash photography.


15. The contracts last for 6 months, so people don’t go mad. There are people who have been there for longer but the majority of people who stick around end up in Shrek or vice versa. That Mrs Lovett you met on your visit might have been Fiona 6 months ago.


16. Everyone has their favourite characters. Mine was the front door Jester as he was a brilliant one to improvise with, and was free from the flow of the attraction. He was friendly though a bit gross, and liked to confuse visitors by going off to find sheep’s brains to make some stew. I never made that stew in the end…


17. Everyone has their least favourite character. I think mine was the guard in the Guy Fawkes scene. Not that it was a difficult one, it was just that I weirdly ended up doing it over and over again. It became a love hate relationship, and people were never surprised to see me doing it. I made sure it was the last character I ever performed there.


18. And finally, no touching! There's a strict no toching the actors policy. So no touchy! No touch....


And there we go. Just a couple of interesting little things you might not know about the Dungeons. It was both delightful at times whilst also exhausting and painful. Very much like most normal jobs, but I guess also very different too. You don’t tend to get many plague doctors at your local supermarket…


With that it’s bye for now. I’ll be back soon.

Jon


https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/young-adult/when-the-world-falls-down/




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