Fear is a funny thing at the London Dungeon! - Merlin Venues

Fear is a funny thing at the London Dungeon!

05 September 2013

With the London Dungeon’s recent move to Southbank, the show
has become a brand new, scarily fun experience that incorporates audience
participation and tongue in cheek humour to create a memorable show that draws
on London’s
dark fictional and historical past.

We interviewed Richard Quincey Head of Performance and Show
Development at the London Dungeon to see what really goes on in our most
cryptic venue and to find out how they ensure guests receive an immersive and
enjoyable experience!

With the recent rebranding
of the dungeon experience to ‘Fear is a Funny Thing’ how has the tour changed?

Since we have moved venues, we have focused more with the
comedic elements rather than the jumpy scares at Tooley Street. The makeup has become more
naturalistic as before there was fake blood and bruises which needed a story to
justify it. The new jester character is another more light hearted addition to
the show.

How was this new
character developed?

The jester was given a background story to help show the
motivation for the character. He is going to audition to be a jester in the
court of Henry VIII and is trying out his jokes and entertainment on the crowd
before auditioning for the king. (One of Henry VIII’s jesters was Roland the
Farter and his skill was to break wind on command. The king loved him so much
that he gave him a huge amount of land!) This upbeat character helps give the
crowd a bit more laugher while queuing for the attraction.

Is there an intense
selection process to find the perfect people to fill these roles?

We only audition trained actors as it is important that they
know how to act and that they have voice control and physical stamina. In peak
periods there is the potential that they could be performing for up to 12hrs!

The audition process consists of:

  • a monologue of their choice – this is prepared
    in advance
  • an improvisation scene like the jester – this
    can show how well they can portray a character
  • a performance of an element of the Newgate
    script –  shows them a part of the job
    that they will actually be doing
  •  an
    interview process – explores their experience, knowledge of voice and how well
    they work under pressure

How are the actors
trained for their roles?

We send out all the scripts to a new team member about 1 or
2 weeks before they start. They have a lot of induction training about the
brand and the tone of the Dungeon and the idea that every show is different to
the one before and after.

They have a whole day rehearsing with a trainer. In the
morning the trainer is in costume and makeup and they watch the shows and then
in the afternoon they perform the shows for the trainer. It is better to get
them used to it in the venue where they learn while dealing with the sound
effects and live audience and phone’s going off.

Audience interaction
is an integral part of the show, are the actors trained to select certain

Eventually an actor will develop a 6th sense of
who to pick on! There’s no description of a good audience member, you just get
that feeling, “If I pick on this person, they’re going to have fun and be happy
if I say this to them…” You’ll find it’s the same person that gets picked on in
every show, there’s no discussion between the actors beforehand, it’s just the
6th sense that they all manage to pull out the same person!

Any words of advice
for dungeon survival?!

Don’t make eye contact with the actors if you don’t want to
be picked on and turn your phone off or Mrs Lovett may answer it for you!

Behind the Scenes Trivia for you! 

The actors were shown clips of Little Shop of
Horrors and Beetlejuice when being trained for the new comedy/horror brand!

Character references for some of the dungeon
personalities include Kathy Bates from Misery and Vinnie Jones from Lock, Stock
& Two Smoking Barrels!

John Archer and magician, actor and writer Andy Nyman (Kick Ass 2, writer for
Derren Brown

This blog was written on 4th September 2013 by Richard Quincey Head of Performance at the London Dungeon


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