Immersive Sleepaway Camp? Welcome to the Locksmith’s Dream
It's an escape room and a theatrical show and an overnight puzzle hunt. With cocktails. Need I say more?
Today I’m going to tell you about an immersive experience. And you know how much I love those. I had the extreme privilege of traveling to Wales and experiencing The Locksmith’s Dream last month. Suffice it to say, I’ve promptly become obsessed. What is The Locksmith’s Dream? It’s an overnight puzzle hunt-slash-interactive theatrical production in a remote, centuries-old mansion. It’s fantastic. And I want you to experience it too, my Wondercade Explordinaire, so we’re offering a discount to do just that. It’s my gift to you. Move over Saint Nick, here comes Saint Neil. (That’s a joke, Santa. Please do not put me on the naughty list. [Then again, I am pretty naughty, so those kinds of gifts would be fun, too.]) Oof. There I go again, digressing with the sentence structure of a Matryoshka doll (which, actually, is technically a toy, so maybe it’s not a digression after all [but I digress]). -NPH
The Locksmith’s Dream is remarkable. It’s many things: theatre, an escape room, a puzzle hunt, history, cocktails, gourmet meals — all in a luxurious, yet rustic manor built in the 1600s in rural Wales. And I had the immense pleasure of experiencing this overnight adventure that describes itself as “a narrative occult scavenger hunt of mysterious proportions.” (Watch me rave about it in this video here.)
But this is no boring B & B, rest assured. Your goal? Collect curious artifacts by solving puzzles amid a mansion full of actors playing characters that invite you into their immersive story. Here’s the gist of the tale: 5 shady (fictional) organizations are all grappling for the treasures you’re trying to acquire, and you can choose to support these weird secret societies (like an auction house specializing in occult relics, or a shady tabloid that peddles questionable journalism), or not! It’s up to you. You may change your mind as you interact with the actors who play the manor’s staff and learn more about their own backstories. And there are lots of characters: the actor-to-guest ratio is 1:3. You can role-play as a made-up character if you’d like, you can also team up with the other guests…or treat them as rivals. You’ll also end up making tough moral decisions as you explore the real-life British manor, and see how the fictional story is intertwined with its own actual history.
I went with my great friend Emily Jillette and we absolutely loved it. I’ve never felt more like Indiana Jones in my life. So today, I’m sitting down with Ivan Carić and Laura Langrish, creative director and writer of the experience, respectively, who describe the show and why it’s so cool. (And FYI, they’re taking reservations for next month and next year, working on a new show, and offering a discount for Wondercade readers! Keep reading for the deets.)
Neil Patrick Harris: Okay, Laura and Ivan, *I* know how awesome The Locksmith’s Dream is. But explain to the unfamiliar out there what it is and why it’s so epic.
Ivan Carić: There’s nothing like it. It’s an overnight experience in a big, beautiful 17th-century manor that’s filled with history, and there are only around 20 to 22 people at any given time, so it’s kind of like a holiday. But it’s a combination of many different things: If you like Secret Cinema, but you think it doesn’t last long enough, or if you like Punchdrunk, but you think there are too many crowds, or feel like you don’t get enough time in a particular place — then you might like Locksmith’s Dream. One of the guests described it as an escape room that you don’t want to escape.
NPH: Accurate! I didn’t want to escape and in fact, I can’t wait to go back. And maybe even live there forever. So long as the Wi-Fi is good enough to write my weekly Wondercade emails. But apologies for interrupting. Tell us more…
IC: You talk to the actors and build relationships with their characters as you learn more about their stories. During the day, you’re exploring the gorgeous manor and the grounds, where puzzles are woven into everything: there are boxes to unlock, things written on the walls, riddles about the characters in the house. And then in the evening, there’s a banquet in a fire-lit hall. The house is transformed. We call the banquet the House of the Moon: everyone’s wearing a mask and there are lanterns and everything is darkened.
When describing the overall experience, the word that I always come back to is “apophenia”: the feeling that everything is connected. Every single thing you can touch and can look at — every sight, every vista, everything someone says — might be part of the puzzle and the story.
NPH: Which is why people keep coming back. It’s different every time!
Laura Langrish: We never really expected it to be that way, but yes, we’ve had about 5 or 6 pairs of guests come back — because there’s still so much for them to explore. And it’s a unique experience for the actors, too, because they are literally the hotel staff. The butler is acting, but he’s also being a butler. Plus, the puzzles also reset throughout the day, so the staff is constantly creating new experiences.
NPH: And I hear there’s more wonder up your sleeves…something called Key of Dreams?
LL: It’s another interactive experience, in the same manor house, based on weird fiction narratives — the works of Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. Machen is actually local to this area, having grown up 30 miles up the road, during this period in the 1920s when weird fiction really exploded. It’s really exciting to work on. We have a lot to play with. It opens on April 27th and 29th.
NPH: I can’t wait. I need to come back before you begin Key of Dreams, and do The Locksmith’s Dream again! And you have a generous offer for Wondercaders to experience it too…
NPH: Just when I thought I couldn’t love you guys more. Thanks, both.
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