Oliver R. Moore-Howells feels trapped in Tonypandy. No cause for concern though! That’s because some enterprising folks have recently opened an Escape Rooms in the Rhondda town and the Buzz writer got himself along with the intention of getting locked up until he solved some puzzles…
When a person finds themselves locked in an unfamiliar room with no clear way of escape, “gee, this is fun!” doesn’t tend to be the first thought to arise. In this instance, having wisely emptied our bladders beforehand, exchanged solemn vows not to kill one another and ensured someone knew of our whereabouts, this writer and his fellow Escapees entered the Byers House from Netflix series Stranger Things… only to find we were indeed having a blast!
Located in Tonypandy, the Rhondda Escape Rooms is further proof that this historic Valleys town refuses to sputter out. And though only a flicker of its former glory, hope abounds that new life will once again course beneath its paving stones.
A passion project of the Black family, it’s clear upon entering that the creators of this exciting, sometimes frustrating adult funhouse are every bit as excited as you are. After a hearty greeting, visitors are given hints and tips before being let into the escape room of their choosing: The Stranger Things Experience or The Asylum.
For those still not familiar with the concept, it’s simple: 1. Get locked in a room; 2. Look around for clues that lead to the unlocking of boxes, finding keys and opening doors; 3. Aim to escape within an hour. 4. Try not to swear, cry or break things in the process. Too much to ask? Thankfully staff are on hand to help…
Having visited escape rooms in Cardiff, Tenby and Blackwood, the family were inspired to set up their own in Tonypandy – the town local-born Neil Black lived in for many years. “We loved them!” he says, “and thought it was something needed in the valleys. Tonypandy is central too, with good transport links. Plus, we wanted to create more footfall here as Treorchy already has enough going for it.”
Planning the room’s themes, puzzles and design was very much a family affair, involving Neil, partner Betty and their adult daughter Georgia. Each a fan of the series, and not having seen it explored elsewhere in this manner, The Stranger Things Experience was the first room they began to work on. Possessing more than simply his creative smarts, Neil utilised his building skills too, developed over many years as part of his rope access business and other ventures.
Attracting attention, the place has been flooded with visitors, most of them locals. “It was awesome fun!” says Tim from nearby Williamstown, shortly after escaping The Asylum with his partner. “I’ve actually completed three other rooms in Cardiff, and this was as good, if not better. Beyond what I was expecting from an attraction in the Rhondda. The work they’re doing is great and I’m sure it’s going to draw a lot of people to the Valleys.” Indeed, people have in fact come from all over the country, including a guy as far away as Penrith in Cumbria.
So once you’ve escaped and your Escape Room curiosity’s been sated… then what? “We have plans to return and do the Stranger Things room over the next few weeks,” Tim says. “I’ve heard great things about the effects from friends who’ve completed it. We’re also looking forward to seeing the new rooms come together in the future, as I know the owners have some incredible ideas.’’
On this, Neil Black elaborates further: “We’re building an additional three rooms, including one based on The Last Of Us, with other rooms rolling with the seasons – a Christmas-themed room, etc”. He mentions that he’s eying up other venues too for different types of entertainment activities, though otherwise remains tight-lipped for now – but the aim is to keep it local.
So, does this sort of thing float your boat? If so, challenge yourself and try something a bit different. And rest assured, the Demogorgon’s not gonna get you…
Rhondda Escape Rooms, 1 Crown Building, Tonypandy.
Open daily, 10am-10pm. Info: here
words OLIVER R. MOORE-HOWELLS