THEME3, the UK based creative design and build company, has taken attraction retail to the next level at Merlin’s London Dungeon Tavern, creating a themed retail area incorporating live entertainment and interactivity that provides a fun finale to the visitor experience.
The London Dungeon, part of Merlin Entertainment plc’s South Bank cluster, opened the doors of its new retail area on December 12th, 2015.
The interactive bar experience transports guests to a ‘vibrant, decadent and decidedly dodgy Victorian pub’ for a complimentary beer or non-alcoholic lemon-ale. Actors take on lively character roles entertain punters with bawdy stories, jokes and rumours. No two tables at the Tavern are the same; guests are right in the middle of a live drama with special effects and lots of humour, ensuring each visit is unique. Customers can also take a bit of the Tavern home with a specially designed range of retail items including tankards, aprons and coasters.
THEME3 have worked closely with Merlin on many successful projects over the years. For the London Dungeon Tavern project they acted as creative leads and turnkey suppliers, starting from developing the story and leading on to the design, including sets, costumes, merchandise and gags for the show, as well brand development, creating the logo and graphic identity. As a one-stop-shop for attraction development THEME3 also project managed, built and provided installation services.
David Harding, THEME3 Director, says, “We’ve been involved with the London Dungeon over many years. It’s a unique and entertaining brand to work on. The combination of the very individual product together with opportunity to collaborate with their team of experts equals an extremely satisfying creative experience.”
There were a number of challenges involved with the project. Firstly the building housing the London Dungeon Tavern, County Hall, is listed and subject to planning restrictions. However, THEME3 has many years of experience in working with heritage sites and were able to successfully incorporate the Tavern into the historic building.
Secondly, visitor numbers put huge pressure on the design specification; the visitor flow had to be optimised to give a practical solution that still felt right for the period and setting. The success of this balance will remain under review and THEME3 will be on hand to support the attraction long after the opening day.
However the main challenge was a creative one, to give the Tavern an authentic atmosphere.
Ailsa Easton, Creative Director at THEME3 explains, “We wanted to avoid it feeling like it was just a novelty bar tagged onto the end of a Dungeon attraction – it needed to be as entertaining and unique as the rest of the attraction. So it needed plenty of story, heart and a dark sense of humour! Everything from the audio to the special effects that might catch you by surprise, we created specifically for the environment.
“I think it’s an achievement to be proud of that we’ve created a space that is commercial but also a fully immersive interactive experience – it’s the first time that has been done in the Merlin group! The Tavern lets guests leave on a high, combining being able to buy a souvenir of your visit with entertainment and a drink, instead of your bog standard ‘exit through the gift shop’. We’ve created plenty of themed retail experiences before but this takes it to the next level… and where retail experiences in themed attractions should be.”
Steve Blackburn, General Manager of the London Dungeon, says, “We wanted to shake up the whole gift shop concept. What THEME3 have delivered is exceptional… a really well-themed experience which ticks every box we needed operationally and the guest experience, as well as just looking very authentic.”