T3's previous experience of theme parks goes like this: pay eye-watering entry fee, queue for an hour to spend three minutes screaming and vomiting on the biggest rollercoaster on site, eat dodgy hot dog, repeat.
Derren Brown, however, is gearing up to turn the average theme park experience on its head – and mess with your head in the process. The London-born illusionist and mentalist has been working with Thorpe Park for the past three years on something dark, twisted and creepy.
The award-winning hypnotist has teamed up with the Surrey theme park to create the world's first fully immersive psychological attraction for a theme park, a 13-minute long journey combining cutting-edge technologies with old-school parlour tricks that's designed to manipulate the human mind.
The attraction, which is due to open in Spring 2016, encompasses 2,306 square meters of Thorpe Park real estate. More than 1,000 specialists from the park's creative department have been involved in its development.
T3 caught up with Derren Brown and Paul Moreton, Group Creative Director at Merlin Entertainments, who's been working with Derren on the attraction, to find out more.
T3: What kind of cutting-edge technologies are you using in the creation of this attraction?
Paul Moreton: “In the same way that a magician never reveals their techniques, there will be a certain element of that also within this attraction. We'll let you come and experience it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. All I will say is that we are using technologies that are currently not in use in any UK theme park, and it will be truly ground-breaking.”
T3: In what way will it be ground-breaking?
Paul: “The attraction will use a unique cocktail of technology and stage/theme park techniques that have never been combined in this way before. Some of these are truly state of the art, and will be completely new to most of our audience, whilst others are classic techniques which, when combined, create a world-first attraction. Working closely with Derren, we've created something unique and compelling. The end result, from start to finish, will be unlike anything you've ever witnessed, and the result will be completely mind-blowing.”
T3: Derren, what motivated you to create this “fully immersive, psychological (theme park) attraction”?
Derren Brown: “Thorpe Park approached me as they wanted to test the boundaries of what is possible within a theme park attraction, and thought psychology would be an interesting angle. I love rollercoasters, but they're always over very quickly; and I've been terrified of those things where actors jump out at you. So it's very exciting to be able to create my own immersive version of a theme park attraction.”
T3: What can T3 readers expect when they embark on your 13-minute journey?
Derren: “I don't want to give too much away, as I want people to experience the attraction with no idea what to expect, but no doubt it should mess with your head. It uses emerging technology in a very different way [to what is] being used elsewhere. I'm trying to bring a level of imagination and layered thought that hasn't been seen before in theme parks. I want people to leave with a huge adrenaline rush and also with a sense of 'What the hell just happened?'”
T3: There will be sceptics who'll say there's no way tech can be used to effectively manipulate the mind. What would you say to them?
Paul: “What I would say to those people is that we have created something which, if you're open to it, will challenge your view of what is real and what isn't. We will immerse people in a world where even the most hardened will question what's perception and what's reality. Is seeing really believing?”
T3: Derren: why are people drawn to experiences centered around fear?
Derren: “I think fear is a very individual feeling, however some forms of fear can give us a natural high, meaning we get a thrill from certain situations. Overcoming our fears can also leave us with a confidence and satisfaction. I've always had a love/hate relationship with the 'scary' aspects of rides, but with this attraction I want to take the best parts of rides and take something immersive, thrilling, fun, dark and imaginative, and push boundaries.”
The Derren Brown attraction at Thorpe Park will be open to the general public in Spring 2016. Early-bird tickets are available for pre-order now – and you'll need to be fast if you want to be one of the first to experience this pioneering attraction. Early-bird one-day tickets cost £27.99, and are on sale now from www.thorpepark.com. The theme park has also created a micro-site, mindswanted.co.uk.