Is it time you were trapped in a prison van?
David Jones, the man behind Trapped in a Prison Van, unveils exciting new escape rooms at purpose-build HQ in East Village
Most people try to avoid getting locked up in the confines of a prison van.
But David Jones is betting punters in Stratford will not only climb willingly inside but will cough up their hard-earned cash for the pleasure.
The immersive entertainment guru has relocated his entire escape game business to East Village.
He is creating a purpose-built centre in a disused car park that will house Trapped In A Prison Van, Trapped In A Room With A Zombie and Trapped Undercover, as well as two new as yet unnamed games.
“The whole thing is being built bespoke to give that immersive feel,” said the New Zealand native, who moved to the UK in 2002.
Wannabe convicts are dressed in orange jumpsuits, handcuffed and marched behind chain link fencing and barbed wire to be locked up. They will have to work together to distract a guard and escape.
Those who brave the zombie will have to solve the puzzles as the creature’s chain lengthens every five minutes. “If you haven’t escaped in an hour, you have failed and you’re zombie food,” said David.
Spy-themed Trapped Undercover is a mobile unit for six players who have to work out why they have been double-crossed.
“A lot of companies will set up a room with clues you have to work out,” said David. “But we like to create a storyline so there is a reason why the customer is there and trapped.
“We really like to create that feeling that the customer is somewhere special. Not just thrown into a room and told ‘figure it out.’”
Customers who keep their cool and complete a game can go home smug. But David and his team are making sure the new headquarters, and the actors working there, are ready to cope with customers who get too caught up in the fantasy.
“When people freak out, we call it a code brown,” said the Sevenoaks resident.
“In an industry like this, you need to understand the psychology of the scare. Around 95% of people will flee but there is that small percentage who will stand fast or, worse case scenario, throw a punch.
“We have to train our staff to know what to do. When the adrenaline pumps up, people can also get quite physical with props.
“We have learnt everything needs to be very strong to be able to cope with the rigors of a scared middle-aged man thrown into a situation he’s not used to.”
David moved to the UK after meeting his wife and now business partner Anne. He worked at the former Four Seasons in Canary Wharf before spotting an opportunity to change careers.
“I saw this warehouse just sitting empty on Wood Wharf and thought it was a bit of a waste on the doorstep of 55,000 workers at that point, with a reasonable disposable income,” said the entrepreneur who lived on the Isle of Dogs at the time.
“I saw an opportunity to create an out-of-the-box entertainment for them and for London.”
The couple ran the Paintball Centre in Wood Wharf from 2004 to 2009 before they were forced to move out due to the area’s redevelopment and relocated to Charlton, where they still run Bunker 51. They branched into escape games a few years ago.
“When the recession hit, we decided we need to diversify and find other markets,” said David.
“I wanted to create an event where the customer feels like they are an extra in a movie. “
Until now, his three businesses have been dotted around London.
But he has now brought Room Escape UK to Stratford alongside award-winning events company Apocalypse Events and Ultimate Recreation, which runs Star Command, a futuristic laser tag adventure and VR gaming arcade equipped with three HTC Vive stations and 40 games.
“We have been working with East Village and Get Living London on the laser tag for a few months and they said they had this space and would we like to bring anything else over?
We decided it would be great because it’s an opportunity to bring everything together. It will be a proper centre for excitement.”
So is he any good at escape rooms?
“I’m going to be honest and say no,” he said. “I enjoy creating them and I can come up with a lot of ideas but I’m not very good at the actual clue solving.
“I’m claustrophobic so would struggle with prison van but my worst nightmare would be a coffin. “Eurgh, that would not be good.” Safe to say the new games won’t be vampire-themed then?
David Jones has relocated his immersive entertainment business