Saturday, January 28, 2006

Madame Tussauds

Having travelled back from Milton Keynes, we arrived back at Marylebone station, where the others travelled on home. I thought I'd take the opportunity to visit Madame Tussauds and the Planetarium, which are both a short distance away.

I'd never actually visited the place before, the idea of waxworks didn't really appeal so I have no idea why I chose to go to day. The venue has a number of entrances depending on whether you have a pass, or tickets pre-purchased. Having neither I had to join furthest one away, and the one with the longest queue. I'd heard bad things about the queue times at this place, it is a very popular tourist attraction but this was bad. It took me over an hour to get to the cash desk to buy the ticket, the few pictures in the line didn't offer enough of a distraction. There were TV screens that ran small clips of the attraction, along with adverts for Thorpe Park (ownewd by the same company) but it was pretty out of date. They were still announcing the imminent arrival of the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston display, and as all OK magazine readers will know, Brad left Jenn and is now with Angelina Jolie.

One thing in the queue line that did catch my attention was a poster advertising the Tussauds season pass. For £80 I could get a year's free entry to 3 of the best theme parks in the country as well as the attraction I was queueing for. The ticket for this was £22 so it made financial sense to get it, I'd easily make my money on it. So I asked to buy one and am taken down some stairs to the entrance for passholders where I was given my new pass. Apparently I could just have walked into this entrance and got the pass without queueing all that time, c'est la vie!

Once I finally got into the attraction, the experience was extremely surreal. The first room is loosely themed to look like a movie premiere and the place was littered with mannequins of famous people, some of which looked extremely lifelike, others barely recognisable. I'm guessing the techniques have gotten better year after year as the most recent ones were the best particularly Lou and Andy from Little Britain. No idea what they would be doing at a premiere though.

The problem with this place is that it was mobbed with tourists, hardly a surprise to be honest but with them standing about taking everything in it is difficult to spot all the waxworks, you just think some of the them are part of the tourist crowd.

The venue is deceptively large and upon leaving that room there are plenty of others. With it being Chinese New Year they had a stage celebrating that with the likes of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee (who looked weedy) amongst other (asian but not strictly chinese) actors. Taking centre stage though was a model of basketball player Yao Ming who at 7'5" towers over everybody.

There are some interactive displays including one where you can air guitar whilst surrounded anachronistically by Freddy Mercury, Jimmy Hendrix and the balding guy from the Darkness. I didn't see the Pop Idol display, must have missed it and some of the models will blush when you whisper into their ear.

Along with the waxworks the venue houses a couple of other attractions. Chamber Live is a haunted walkthrough that doesn't come anywhere close to similar attractions elsewhere. Having someone coming up behind you and whisper "boo" just doesn't cut it. They also have a London Black Cab themed dark ride which is alright although it's spoiled by having the final scene containing Harrod's owner Mohammed Al Fayed along with an advert to visit his store where you can get your own waxwork made. An ideal place for an advertisement if you can afford the quarter of a million price tag and can successfully get it back to whatever country you're visiting from. A stupid advert that benefits no-one but Fayed's ego.

The final attraction I saw was the Planetarium which is a 360 cinema show detailing the solar system. Quite impressive show but they could have made it 3D or something. A short walk out of here and you have to run the gauntlet of souvenirs before you're deposited out in the street. I didn't think it was a good send off. "We have your money now get out" was the impression it left.

I would go again but only because I can now jump the queue and on this occasion I failed to have my camera on me and so didn't get any shots. It's just too touristy for me.
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