On Tuesday 12th March, TowersTimes was invited to a special ‘Meet the Maker’ event at Alton Towers Resort, alongside other enthusiast communities to discover some of the secrets behind The Alton Towers Dungeon ahead of its grand opening on 23rd March 2019. TowersTimes looks at some of the details behind the Resort’s newest attraction.
Located in the former home of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Ride, The Alton Towers Dungeon is set to take guests on a journey through some of Staffordshire’s darkest history. From the outside, the exterior of the building has been almost totally transformed with a castle-style façade, complete with sinister-looking monk statues, a skeleton in a cage and flame torches. Adding to the external atmosphere is a custom created soundtrack composed by the Resort’s Simon Allen. The soundtrack blends elements of some of the surrounding areas’ themes, as well as working in the signature In the Hall of the Mountain King, to create a sense of anticipation, but at the same time ensuring it isn’t too scary so as not to frighten some of the younger guests who may be waiting to enter.
The Alton Towers Dungeon features five shows as well as a journey along The Black River. As guests journey through the Dungeon they will encounter the Dishonourable Bishop of Stafford; have an audience with the Torturer; be welcomed to the Welsh Harp Inn and meet Highwayman Dick Turpin; have an appointment with the Plague Doctor; and finally take shelter in an abandoned cottage where you might just meet the Witch of Burslem – Molly Leigh. All the shows are drawn from the core Dungeon offering but have been overlaid with local Staffordshire legend to make the shows in The Alton Towers Dungeon specific to the Resort. The Judge is the local Bishop of Stafford, the Torturer links to the Civil war, and of course The Haunting draws upon the story of Molly Leigh, The Witch of Burslem. In addition to the five core shows, guests will also encounter several other characters from the Dungeon Keeper at the entrance, to The Wise One and other Dungeon inhabitants both before boarding and when getting off the boat on The Black River, all of which will ensure guests remain fully immersed in The Dungeon from start to finish.
During our visit, we were given a special welcome by the Steward of The Alton Towers Dungeon, as well as having to face justice in the court of The Judge – the Dishonourable Bishop of Stafford and have an audience with the Torturer. Each of the three characters struck the perfect balance between scares and fun. As is customary with Dungeons shows, there was plenty of audience participation, with certain lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) people specially picked out to join the show in each room. Although we only saw three of the Dungeon’s characters, it is clear that there will be a high standard of acting and characterisation throughout the attraction, something which reflects the rigorous audition process each actor has been through, and the 240 hours of training each performer has undertaken.
Whilst the shows may be brought to life by the characters, there is also a huge amount of detail within the sets of The Alton Towers Dungeon which help immerse guests in the attraction. Many of the sets and props have been created with painstaking attention to detail. Just some of the inhabitants created for the Dungeon include:
- 25 rats (each taking 4 hours to make)
- 7 skeletons (not all in one piece!)
- 4 full-size turkeys
Other items made include a cauldron, 12 small herb pots, a beef joint, and 35 distressed tankards. Also created have been several life-like human hearts, livers and intestines, each of which took a day to complete. The Alton Towers Dungeon uses a ‘three wall set’ model which means that the walls the guests face are fully themed, whilst the one that is typically behind guests is left black and relies on the darkness of the room and the fact guests are facing away from it therefore not noticing that not all the walls are fully themed. To add to the atmosphere, a wide variety of smells are also used throughout the attractions with the scents including: Rotten corpse, burnt flesh, putrefying bodies, stale ale, and Eau de Ghost.
All the costumes and make-up the characters wear have been specially designed for the attraction, with actors being trained in Dungeon make-up and dressing and care of wigs. All make-up has been made bespoke by West End theatre specialists Precious About Make-Up. The costumes are comprised of 309 garments, 30 hats, 20 wigs, and 36 pairs of shoes. Each costume is broken down and distressed to fit the desired image for each character. Some of the tools and materials used to break down the costumes include a cheese grater, soap, wax, natural dyes such as tea and mud, and sandpaper, as well as some materials being bleached, rubbed, burned and torn.