I visit Shrek’s Adventure with Daisy, a hardy nearly seven-year-old, and Matilda, four, who we had previously thought fairly thick-skinned, but more of that later…
Situated next to the new London Dungeon and beside the London Aquarium, it’s an attraction that aims to give the feeling of being in a film and succeeds – a little too much at times.
The start is sedate. You are invited to make your way down a few corridors of old County Hall (the wood panelling hung not with past mayors but with portraits of Shrek, Princess Fiona, the Donkey and the rest of the gang). In the departure lounge, you are greeted by a uniformed attendant who reads the rules in an amusing fashion and is the first of a long line of highly trained actors putting their all into performances.
The first stop is a “bus garage” where audience participation – it turns out there is to be a lot of this – means singing a song at the tops of our voices, which the adults appear to enjoy as much as the children.
Then you are given 3D glasses and enter the “bus” – this is a stationary, seated affair complete with pull-down bars that you usually find in a fairground. It all looks fairly harmless but then the green screen is turned on and utterly petrifies everyone apart from the 7-year-old, who absolutely loves it.
Virtually every freaky nightmare scenario you’ve ever experienced from plummeting from a great height to being run over by a train is realised with horrifying accuracy. Unfortunately for Matilda, her nightmares involve being chased by green-faced witches and, unfortunately for all the family, it turns out that these very witches form a key part of the narrative. Let’s just say she doesn’t like it.
In the next room – a “tavern” – we discover from another jolly thespian that we have landed on a witch and so all the other witches are out to get us. Matilda starts crying again and another child (aged seven but obviously of sensitive disposition) is carried out screaming at the top of her lungs.
Daisy turns to me: “We’re not going to leave are we? I’m really enjoying this!” And so I cover Matilda’s eyes and ears. The emotional rollercoaster continues during the rest of the adventure – Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are a hit; not so much the Torture Chamber with Pinocchio, the scary mirror maze and the rat-infested, skeleton-hung chapel with… I won’t spoil it but suffice to say I swore in front of children.
Matilda completely forgets all her fears once we emerge from the adventure and discover the entire cast of Madagascar – including the penguins – waiting to have their photographs taken with you. Jelly-shaped snakes from the shop seal the deal. Overall, she decided she had enjoyed it but probably wouldn’t go again as it was just a bit too scary. Daisy, meanwhile, gave it the double thumbs up, which is about as good as it gets.
The advice from this weary adventurer: children aged from four upwards are permitted but bear in mind temperament and personality, too.
Shrek’s Adventure! is located in County Hall on London’s South Bank and is open from 10am to 6pm, 7 days a week. Tickets booked online are priced from adult £23.40, children from £18.72