I've lived in London for well over 10 years now and like every hardened Londoner I have avoided the most touristy of tourist attractions. Yet after a phone call with my aunt I was tasked with showing my 12 year old cousin the best of London, so instantly found myself googling all the things I'd spent years avoiding and quickly settled on taking him to The London Dungeon.
The stakes were high, I had the chance to prove myself as the cool older family member by treating a kid whose catchphrase is 'I'm bored' and 'this is rubbish' to a day out which he can boast to his friends about. I remembered visiting the Dungeons when I was around his age in their old location near London Bridge and had vague memories of the occasional scare and being a little bored. However in their new location by the London Eye, The London Dungeons now promise two rides, 19 shows and 110 minutes of fun. But would it be enough to keep my cousin interested and to stop him pestering me to play games on my iPhone?
As soon as we arrived at the London Dungeon, with its foreboding entrance my cousin's eyes lit up, delighted by the prospect of a few hours of gruesome fun. I was surprised by just was how busy it was, it seems dungeon time was in demand. Luckily we had pre booked a tour time and after 15 mins of waiting in various lines our journey began. We found ourselves in a group of around thirty people venturing through the highly immersive sets and encountering some of the twenty live actors who bring the stories of London's most grisly past to life.
You're swiftly moved from scene to scene, though a mixture of shows, rides and attractions whilst taking in over a thousand years of London history. None of the boring bits though. There was a strict focus on the sort of stuff that a 12 year old boy loves; tales of beheadings, the plague, torture and humans in pies all told with a comic slant by the cast who gave their all. Which is no mean feat when you think how many times a day they have to say those words. Although the jokes are decidedly ropey in parts, the overall effect is part stand up and part history lesson full of surprises, audience participation, special effects and shocks.
The whole thing was pitched at just the right level, enough grown up bits to keep the adults amused and scary enough to install just the right amount of fear and excitement to keep my cousin occasionally getting closer to me for moral support but bubbling with excitement for the whole experience. He loved getting lost in the mirror maze whilst escaping Jack the Ripper, getting 'blood' from a cadaver sprayed over him and he conquered his own fears on Drop Dead, a sudden drop ride which quickly turned his screams of fear into laughter of delight.
Delivering him home to his parents it was interesting to hear him rave about the splashing backwards on the Tyrant Boat Ride and explaining the noises Sweeney Todd made behind his head in the barber shop. But despite all the rides and shows it was the gross history of London which stayed with him proving that education can be fun. Who'd have thunk it? So his parents were happy I'd given him a history lesson, he was happy to have had a load of fun in the Dungeons and I was happy to be the cool older cousin he can brag to his friends about. He totally loved it and I found myself not only enjoying seeing him having such a good time but getting into the spirit of it and having almost as much fun as him. London Dungeon, more like London Fungeon!