Madhouse Margate was clearly one of the best events that we attended all Halloween season. This show had everything but first and foremost – it unreeled a very clear narrative which was much appreciated. We find that in a lot of haunts, the story strays very quickly in a concession to delivering scares and shocks. By the time you reach the end, you find very little connection with the opening. We absolutely hate ‘warping’ in mazes, we’re there for the immersive experience and an attraction losing grip of its plot is a very quick way to shatter the illusion.
Here, you enter an asylum and very quickly realise that something is off. From there a succession of cohesive scenes serve to offer a new experience with every turn of the corner. Everything stays on theme and yet the show is still able to introduce supernatural elements to keep things fresh, using the inhabitants of the building as conduits, sharing their fears and previous traumas. This was definitely not a case of going, ‘oh clowns are scary, let’s chuck them in regardless’ – not to say that clowns do/don’t appear but there’s a relevance to everything that you encounter.
By now, it feels a bit condescending saying things like we’re impressed that the event was produced by a small family team or how amazing they did considering the budget that they had. When bigger companies with ‘full’ teams don’t rival events like this, what difference does it make how big/small they are? A bad event is a bad event regardless of budget, it’s immediately obvious if some thought and planning has gone into an event and, equally, where it hasn’t… So yeah, this was just an amazing experience full stop.
To give you a feel for it, it was an immersive theatre/haunt hybrid. Every new room that you entered delivered a mini-scene, usually closing with a scare or two before you moved on. And the sections between each scene were just as fun and more along the lines of your typical scare maze. We were genuinely impressed by the acting across the board especially given the way that the show is structured – only small groups go through. We assume this is partly because although the show covers what feels like a massive area, every room is quite small. It definitely wouldn’t accommodate your standard circa eight group. With that in mind, the actors had a pretty difficult job really, having such a small group to interact with. No-one felt wooden or flustered, everybody was sharp as a tack. We have to give special mention to the child actors of which there were a few (or maybe the same ones were moving around the set with us – it was sometimes too chaotic to tell!). Performing to a tiny group of adults must have been incredibly daunting but they were all superb! We honestly really can’t say enough good things!
That aside, the design of the haunt was fantastic as well – there were so many unexpected moments including a totally unique (to us) method of moving guests from one space to another. There was another curtain maze that had us stupidly lost and we’re convinced that the route was being altered as we traversed it with exits appearing where they didn’t exist before. The marriage of this scene’s content to the set was brilliantly inspired – it felt nightmarish, like a setpiece ripped out of the Silent Hill franchise. When we couldn’t find our way out, with a child’s plea ringing in our ears, it just made the whole thing incredibly dark.
We loved it, pure and simple. But, there was a really unfortunate downside to our time at this event which is why we just cannot rate it higher than we have.
We travel by public transport pretty much everywhere we go. Being born and bred Londoners, we’ve never needed to possess a car. And sometimes that puts us at a real disadvantage when attending some of these events. On this particular night, we knew we had about a two and a half hour window which, on the face of it, seemed like more than enough time. Yet we didn’t go into the first attraction (yes, there are two) until an hour after our scheduled time. Despite assurances that we’d go through next, it still took an inordinate amount of time to get us into the haunt. By the time that we’d finished with The Madhouse, we had about an hour left but, unfortunately, we had to make the decision to abandon going through their second maze, The Funhouse, as we couldn’t afford another extended wait. Now, we’re slightly annoyed by the fact that we’d paid for both and had to leave before going through the whole thing but, being honest, we’re way more miffed that we never got to see what The Funhouse had in store for us!! We would’ve killed to go through there after our time in The Madhouse but we simply couldn’t trust that we’d be put through quick enough.
Which brings us to an interesting (and possibly wider) discussion – a lot of emphasis across the industry is placed on timeslots and arriving when you’re supposed to. Now, we’ve never fallen afoul of this so we don’t know how strictly events uphold these rules but it feels like guests don’t really have any recourse when the opposite happens to them. Check our review for Apocalypse World Tour to see what we mean. Don’t get us wrong, we know events have queues – we’ve obviously been through enough to realise that. But when an event is selling very specific timeslots, there’s a reasonable expectation that, within about fifteen minutes or so, you should be going through. Or selling that timeslot is inaccurate. It’s important because we don’t have the luxury or flexibility of being able to hop in a car at the end of the event. When Apocalypse overran, it cost us a further £40 for a cab. That was in London though so at least we knew we could get home. For this event, being way too far away, we had to get the last train home that night. We really, really don’t want to come across as negative here as everyone was so friendly and hospitable but, at the same time, we can’t deny that the organisation of the event put a serious dent in our enjoyment that evening. Constant watch-checking is no way to spend time at an event!
We don’t know what happened and what the cause for the delay was but we’d implore the guys behind this show to give some strong consideration to the logistics if it returns next year. We’d love to return and we’d recommend it in a single second if we knew that the organisation was tighter. As it stands – simply put, we doubt we can risk it and we’d strongly recommend that anyone considering Madhouse Margate evaluates whether a potentially long wait is a problem. If it isn’t, you absolutely have to go – it’s one of the best things we’ve been through all year and we can guarantee that you’ll have a brilliant time there. If time is tight like it usually is for us, attend at your own peril.
+ Imaginative scenes
+ Refreshing use of actors
+ Great balance of theatrics and scares
- Poor queue management
Based on our experience, we have to rate Execution and Value for Money down as the organisation was lacking and we didn't get to experience half of what we paid for (admittedly, a decision that we ourselves made - the event was still open, we just wouldn't have been able to get home afterwards). We feel super bad about this though as we had the best time at Madhouse Margate but, sadly, an event is only as good as all the parts that constitute it.
Address: Westgate Pavilion, CT8 8QW Margate, Kent