The London Dungeon remains one of the UK capital’s most popular tourist attractions.
Now a decade at its current home of the South Bank’s County Hall building, it is also nearly 10 years since our our last review).
WARNING! This review contains some descriptions which can be considered spoilers, but it by no means describes every aspect of the experience. We always aim to preserve many surprises.
Gone are the live rats of the queue line, with a metal detector and completely out-of-character security officer now in their place.
You are called through and invited to pose for for not one but two photographs.
One uses a cheap plastic axe, with the other being against a screen where you’re invited to strangle whoever you are with.
Cloaked figures line the corridors, and you are left warily unsure if they are real or not.
Fortunately this one is simply a well-dressed model.
But then, passing two seated figures, one springs to life, providing a great jump scare.
In the Dungeon’s typical series of waiting and the being called through, a jester collects our group, but there is no elevator today, simply a fire escape-like staircase to the decent of the attraction.
The Tyrant Boat ride takes the group to Traitor’s Gate. It remains a great dark ride, including some total darkness as the boat ascends.
The backwards drop, preceded by an awesome build-up, is particularly wet in the rear seats.
Earlier, Brian Blessed remains in his cameo-projection as the voice and face of Henry VIII, while a guest was told off over the PA for being on their phone.
The Tower Warden is one of many excellent actors providing comical pick-ons and ribbings of the group.
The Gunpowder Plot, and the preceding Conspirators Walk are a little more on the serious side.
The movement and effects of the Guy Fawkes scene surprising several in our group.
Next up, the Torturer routine remains virtually unchanged after many, many years. People remain amused however.
As we enter the bakery on Pudding Lane, source of the Great Fire of London, the actor telling the story is well-dressed and in good character.
But this scene is poor in its effects and use of inferior screens.
It is good to see the 1666 great fire back in the Dungeon, but it needs improving with updated effects.
Then the Plague Doctor both amuses and frights – the latter coming at the beginning’s blackout, an actor suddenly appearing in front of our faces.
But the best use of this trick comes in the impressive Curse of the Witch, with its elaborate build-up and multiple effects.
A new addition last year, this scene is a stunning piece of theatre.
It ventures outside the Dungeon’s typical comfort zone of comical telling of history, and into the realms of supernatural horror.
Jumping Jack scares
Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop remains very well themed indeed, and the actress is in great form with her lines.
Sweeney Todd is also still an unsettling experience, particularly as he whispers in your ear from behind.
Mitre Square and Whitechapel Labyrinth precede an encounter with Jack the Ripper, whose jump scares are particularly severe for those seated at the front of the Ten Bells Pub.
In Mitre Square, there was a clumsy moment where a couple of actors seemingly coming off shift ran through during the scene.
The Courtroom’s seemingly age-old script is now sadly running on fumes. But again, if people are entertained, why not?
The Drop Dead ride and its single top-loaded drop, 33 feet according to the actress host, remains somehow inferior to the suspenseful theatre of Extremis at the old Tooley Street site.
Still, it packs a reasonable punch, and as such makes for a fitting finale of this durable and still-evolving London Dungeon.
Or not quite a finale. The superbly-themed Tavern is now the final curtain of this 17-scene, 90-minute-plus experience.
The £8 themed cocktails are just about worth nursing while sitting and enjoying the atmosphere of the spookily self-playing piano, and the streams of satisfied Dungeon visitors that pass through.