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Immersion in the 17th century Welsh manor house. The Locksmith's Dream

Immersion in the 17th century Welsh manor house. The Locksmith's Dream

Anna Kryśkow |

Immersive experiences are becoming increasingly popular. People are still fond of classic escape rooms, but they are looking for other, related entertainment, more immersive storylines, engaging actions reminiscent of theater or RPG games. As a result, there are such events echoing around the world.

This year I wrote about London's The Saw: Experience, which is a mix of escape room, horror house and theater. You may also be familiar with one of the most famous immersive theater - Punchdrunk, also founded in London. You have to admit that the English know how to get into immersion!

The Locksmith's Dream - a genuinely unique experience that cheerfully embraces multiple genres, escape room (where the entire house is an escape room), immersive theatre, and gourmet dining, also is a British project. 

We have a surprise for you related to the upcoming The Locksmith's Dream event in the form of a discount code. Keep reading!

More than escape room

About the history of the creation of The Locksmith's Dream, the property, the plans and more I talked to Ivan Carić Co-Founder and Director.

Anna: Ivan, thank you for your time. I really need to know more about this unusual concept! Where did the idea for this type of event come from?

Ivan: Briefly, a little about me and my role in this. I worked in large telecom corporates for nearly twenty years (it is as dull as it sounds!). Sadly, my dad died at the end of 2020 during lockdown, and like lots of people did, I reevaluated what I was doing, decided to pack in my job and try to create something that brings a bit of joy into the world. Gaming (board-gaming, RPGs and of course computer games), literature and theatre have been a source of comfort, joy and connection for me throughout my life. I began wondering if combining these in unusual and unexpected ways would help me create something a little magical!

Anna: And this resulted in The Locksmith’s Dream being born.

Ivan: After the lockdown horror of the past few years, a key part of the design goal was to create joy and real connections. To capture that spark of joy you get when you make an intuitive leap or a link. This could be the solution to a puzzle, or more likely, when you link motives, people, places and objects together, and finding that "Oh, I understand what that means now!" moment. Through simple systems, actors, diegetic props, soundscapes, an incredible location and great writing, I wanted to create an experience that would delight people but also defies easy categorisation.

Anna: So what is The Locksmith's Dream all about? Is it just a common escape room?

Ivan: We describe the Locksmith's Dream as "a series of genre-defying, immersive overnight experiences filled with narrative delights and magical puzzles." While this description is completely true it doesn't tell you what a guest will practically experience. So let us start with when a guest arrives.

Guests arrive at the impressive 17th century house when The Locksmith's Dream takes place. They are met by the staff and led up the impressive staircase to their rooms to settle in. There they will find some beautiful bespoke objects that they can use as they wish including a beautiful, hand-bound journal which is a key part of their journey. It is filled with delightful writing, illustration, photographs, and other potential clues, as well as being a place  for taking notes, and receiving the various stamps that will mark their progress along the journey. Alongside this, there is a letter from their sponsor giving them some direction about what they are looking for, and an enamel badge representing their sponsor. Armed with these, the guests step into the house to see what happens next .... we call this first part The House of the Sun.


Ivan: At night, after the seven course banquet, the guests will retire to their rooms where, along with some other delightful objects (I don't want to spoil the surprise) they will find their mask for the evening. Each mask is unique to the room and the original guest it represents has a story hidden throughout the house that they can discover. When the bell rings to summon the guests, they put on their mask and step out of the doors into The House of the Moon.

The house is now transformed, familiar things have become unfamiliar, sounds, scents, and sights have an added dimension of significance. Exploring the grounds and darker corners of the house by lantern light, the guests are never sure what they will find, and there is a gentle eeriness to the proceedings. Some guests will work together to find the objects that their sponsors are looking for, others will explore alone, there is no right way to experience the Locksmith's Dream. The stories and puzzles will tend to resolve the closer to midnight we get, until the bell rings. Time for a final cocktail and some discussions with fellow guests before bed, and the conclusions the following day.

Anna: Wow, it sounds extraordinary! How many editions have been held so far? Were the events successful?

Ivan: We ran our first event in October to fans of the original IP.  In fact the tickets for the original event sold out in a couple of hours, even though the booking website went down, which was as stressful as it sounds! This was both reassuring - they loved the inspiration source material and wanted to experience it in a different way and also scary - fans loved the source material, but obviously have a real feeling of ownership about the details, so we needed to get it right!

However, the beta weekend was a great success with over half of our guests flying over from the US, and we had attendees from seven different countries! We received rave reviews both in video testimonials at the event and on review forms, which at first I was reluctant to provide (really who likes feedback forms?!) but which ran out and guests asked for more to be provided. We're using the comments to refine the next events, but we proved that the model did work! We had a streamer from Canada over, and he interviewed a few of the guests to get their feedback. He was particularly interested in how exactly they would describe the Locksmith's Dream. We're still working through the footage, but some of the snippets are here. We also had a fantastic photographer who captured a lot of lovely moments.

Anna: The project sounds very complex and requires a lot of work. What have been your biggest challenges?

Ivan: The design was challenging to start with. There really isn't, currently, an experience like The Locksmith's Dream. Our design goals were to create an experience that the guests could engage with, and enjoy on their own terms. That goes for the different types of puzzles, stories, actors, the lore, everything. Some people enjoyed solving the special jigsaw puzzles that reveal a little of the story of the house or the puzzle boxes while relaxing with a cocktail by the fire in the bar. Others were excited to interact with the actors, trying to piece together their stories and the puzzles. And many were keen to find the 'Grand Birdsong' - specific items that have intricate stories that need to be pieced together before finding the final object. Writing all the different systems and experiences, linking different physical clues, lore, as well as tying them together seamlessly with the narrative elements and puzzles was a big problem!

Ivan: To help solve this problem, I came up with, what I called, the 'Apophenia index'. I'm sure your readers are familiar with the concept. Essentially, it is seeing patterns and linkages everywhere, which is exactly what we were trying to achieve! It is a list and description of all the elements we can work with; props, soundscapes, elements of rooms, background stories, clues, illustrations, photos and even a scale model of the house that we had made. This let us create linkages between different places, objects and ideas in a way that would create the feeling of immersion that we desired.

Finally, there are all the practicalities in coordinating the whole thing. With an event like this there are so many moving parts - actors, props, food, drink, transport, writing... the list goes on. It was so easy to become lost in the detail and not see the whole picture. The way the team pulled together to make these into something much greater than the sum of its parts was nothing short of magical and our guests so far would certainly seem to agree with that. 

Anna: Your upcoming December events - Saturnalia and Yule, are almost completely sold out. How many people at once can take part in this experience?

Ivan: At the moment the event provides spaces for a maximum of 22 guests at a time. This is both because of the design, where there are eleven 'original' guests from the 1920's whose shoes (or rather mask) our present-day guests will occupy, and because there are eleven unique bedrooms with two guests in each. We are looking at the possibility of increasing that slightly by offering a new form of ticket - the Vagabond  - which will be a cheaper option to provide full attendance at the event, and the meals but without the overnight accommodation.

For those interested in a last minute trip to the UK, we have a promotion running at the moment for the last few tickets on the 17th of December. 

Escape Buzz readers can get an extra 5% off until the end of 2022 by using the code: escapebuzz

Anna: Thank you very much, Ivan! Readers, there are only a few seats left - first come, first served! But back to the topic, are you already planning more events next year? Can you tell Escape Buzz readers about their themes?

Ivan: Now that we have shown that the model works, and that there is interest in this sort of cross-genre, luxury experience, we will have a run of events at the end of March and the middle of April.

In addition to running more Locksmith's Dream events, we've got some exciting plans for the events that we are running next year:

The Locksmith's Dream ball - After the banquet, the guests will return to their rooms to put on their masks, and their dancing shoes before coming down to take part in a glamorous masked ball. Puzzles and story elements are woven through the ball like they are through the rest of the experience. We have a professional dance instructor and actor who will prepare people for the ball during the day. Alongside this, we do still have the whole Locksmith's Dream experience. It should be a fantastic experience for people who may want to dress in a glamorous 1920's style in a fantastic setting.

The Lost Dream - We're all H.P Lovecraft fans (his work though obviously not his views and politics!), and particularly the Dreamlands stories which are full of wonderful strangeness, and similar to the feel of the night time experience of The Locksmith's Dream. So we got to thinking, what if we ran a mysterious occult experience but in an explicitly Lovecraft inspired world. We think that the mix of actors, interesting guest stories, wonderful setting and mysterious occult puzzles will be a perfect fit. If people want to hear more about it, we'll be posting more details in our newsletter when they are available.

Anna: Oh my Great Old Ones, I admire Lovecraft, too! Your plans sound very exciting. As a fan of Master Lovecraft's works, I'm going to keep a close eye on the announcements of next year's events. Thank you very much for the interview. I hope that each of your future events will be as popular as this year's!

If you would like to experience the amazing experience that is The Locksmith's Dream and take advantage of this year's discount, here are the dates of upcoming events. Just a reminder - with the code escapebuzz you will get 5% off until the end of 2022.

We will keep you informed when the next events for 2023 are announced!
 

Anna Kryśkow

Anna Kryśkow

Editor-in-chief, Writer

Journalist and indologist by profession. Writer, marketer, tarantulas keeper and urbex explorer by heart. In the meantime I’m playing escape rooms and board games, and I wonder how I find time to sleep (still dunno). I was born to write - my favorite forms of expression are extensive articles preceded by a long research, and horror stories (for some it’s the same).

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