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The Key of Dreams review: A fantastical 24 hour immersive experience like no other

Over the last few years, immersive experiences have become all the rage as an interactive form of theatre.

Stepping into a contained environment with actors, participants can experience what it’s like to be in a video game in real life.

Secret Cinema famously recreate the worlds of famous films on high budgets, often with an in-world quest to complete should it take your fancy.

More recently Rumble in the Jungle time travelled us back to 1974 Zaire for the famous boxing bout, just a stone’s throw from the on-going steampunk town of Phantom Peak.

What all these open world interactive theatre shows have in common is that they’re all over in a few hours. Yet a small but ambitious company called Lemon Difficult have raised the bar by putting on 24 hour luxury immersive experiences, complete with meals and a room for the night.

Taking place in a beautiful 17th century manor house deep in the Welsh countryside, their 2023 show The Locksmith’s Dream even attracted the praise of Hollywood star Neil Patrick Harris.

Now their latest production The Key of Dreams is here, Express.co.uk just had to head to Treowen and find out what all the fuss was about.

Inspired by the works of weird fiction authors like HP Lovecraft and MR James, guests took on the role of Friends of The Miskatonic University, heading to the manor house to investigate the strange goings on. Arriving in time for lunch, my companion and I were greeted by a mysterious man dressed in Victorian clothing known simply as The Collector.

Inside the large and beautiful historic house, we were met by the other excellent actors who would impressively remain in character for the next 24 hours for us and the 20 or so other guests. A couple of cast members were leading the expedition into the fantastical occurrences at the request of the aristocratic owner, who was hosting us.

Shown to our attic bedroom, we discovered a letter from the university on our pillows, including a highly detailed hardback field guide for our own observation notations. Even just poking around our room, we soon discovered little notes pointing to a spooky story of a previous occupant. The immersion had well and truly begun.

After an initial introduction back downstairs, we were invited to explore the house and its grounds at our leisure. And it was here that the joyous levels of agency and incredible attention to detail really stood out. At first, it was slightly overwhelming working out what to do. For instance, did we want to follow a story trail or focus on solving a puzzle? There were written clues and pieces of information all over the place, not to mention our extensive field guide to consult.

We soon realised there was far more than we could ever engage with so really it was all up to us. For my companion, he wanted to stay in the library and archive to pour over letters and documents; quietly piecing together the fictional history of the house and its occupants. For me, I wanted to engage with the actors and advance up through the various secret organisations, while occasionally taking a break to sit and work on one of the many puzzle boxes containing slithers of information about what was really going on.

Much like an open world video game, we had the opportunity to be loyal or betray those around us, even working as double agents if it suited the storyline we were writing for ourselves. During one particularly spooky moment both my companion and I had a change of heart about our group and decided to switch sides in what felt like The Traitors meets Ghostbusters.

Some of the more macabre aspects of Weird fiction may not be to everyone’s taste, but the choices you make in the game define the experience that you personally want to have and boy can that pay off. One particular highlight was witnessing a couple open up an encased object they had discovered after following a trail of clues that ended in an immensely satisfying reveal.

Aside from the twists, turns and theatrics of the main experience, there were four tasty meals served in the dining room, including a generous multi-course roast banquet, prepared by the on-site chefs.

Now it’s worth pointing out that The Key of Dreams is not a cheap treat at £400 per person with rooms from £350 (off-site accommodation is also available). However, this is hardly surprising given what you get during this luxury and exclusive attraction. So if this really is your thing, it’s totally worth it and you’re going to have a blast.

To find out more about The Key of Dreams and to book tickets click here.


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