Interview: The T.U.R.D.I.S.’s creators on taking their portaloo escape room to Glastonbury

It’s every festival-goers nightmare; getting stuck in a festival toilet. There are rumours of unlucky punters getting stuck in the portaloos at other festivals, and while Glastonbury Festival’s main toilet offering is the famous long-drops, that fear of what lies below still carries weight.

What a perfect location then for a portaloo-themed escape room. The T.U.R.D.I.S (Toilet Utilities Requiring Dexterity, Intelligence & Skill) by Bewilder Box provides a short escape room experience in Bella’s Field at Glastonbury – proving once again the variety of the festival’s offerings in the Theatre and Circus fields.

We caught up with creators David Middleton and Sarah Gathercole about what it’s like to be back at the festival and where the inspiration came from.

How does it feel to be returning to Glastonbury Festival with The T.U.R.D.I.S.?

David: It feels fantastic! We had such an amazing time last year and hoped that we’d be invited back. The fact that we have been, is a testament to what a great job our team did last year. We’re very lucky to have them!

Sarah: We’re thrilled to go back. We’ve been going to Glastonbury as punters for years and had always hoped we’d create something we could take and run and become part of the festival in that way. We”’ never stop feeling grateful to the Circus & Theatre for giving us this opportunity.

How would you describe The T.U.R.D.I.S. to a festival goer considering taking on the challenge?

David: It’s 15-minute, toilet-themed Dr Who Parody puzzle-game, in which (mostly willing) volunteers must help Dr Pooh and No. 2 retrieve the three cosmic proton nuggets and re-activate the Flush-Capacitor.

Anyone who’s played an escape room before will have an idea of what to expect, but it’s perfect for beginners too. Expect a lot of toilet humour and silliness.

Sarah: In short, it’s a mini escape room experience in a portaloo. You’re not actually locked in, but the idea of being locked in a portaloo – no thank you! – was what inspired the idea. We made sure when we designed the T.U.R.D.I.S. it would be the loveliest loo at Glastonbury and one you might not mind spending 15 minutes in. It’s even fitted with a disco ball. It’s all a bit silly and completely in the name if fun. And it’ll definitely be cleanest and most colourful portaloo you’ll visit all festival!

Where did the inspiration for the Portaclue come from?

Dave: Actually, I think the name came first! We love a good pun and the name seemed to write itself: ‘Porta-LOO… Porta-CLUE’. The initial idea was being thrown around many Glastonburys ago. Sarah and I love the festival and have always pondered how we might be able to use our skills as escape room operators to find our way in as performers. So, Portaclue became a reality.

Sarah: The idea was definitely born at Glastonbury! The inspiration was all around us every year. Whether you like it or not, festival toilets spark a lot of conversation for festival goers. ‘What if you got locked in a portaloo? That would be AWFUL! How would you escape?’ … it was only a matter of time before we took those musings and created an escape room in a portaloo!

Did you have any memorable attempts to escape at last year’s festival?

David: Yes! The BBC came down with Remi Burgz from 1Xtra who played a shortened version of the game. Remi was such a great sport, and the footage went out on the Saturday night coverage. We couldn’t believe that our weird little toilet escape room had received some prime-time coverage!

Sarah: Yes, having Remi and the BBC along to visit us was an amazing experience. We were really chuffed they were interested in what we’d created. But every person and every team that played and escaped were memorable for us. We were so busy, and we met so many amazing people. We were so happy to see all these festival goers, of all ages, joining in with the silliness and enjoying our game. There’s nowhere in the world like Glastonbury, after all!

Will you be checking out any of the other acts across the weekend?

Dave: Absolutely! There’s some fantastic acts on The Sensation Seekers Stage in Bella’s Field where we’re based. ’Doreen Doreen’ and ’Wheel of Four Tunes’ are must-sees performing there. Elsewhere we’ll be visiting the Rabbit Hole (perhaps bringing a secret mini-game with us!). Watching Elton on the Pyramid, of course. And other must sees include: Lizzo, Slow Dive, Sparks, Hot Chip, Caroline Polachek. The lineup is stacked!

Sarah: We love the field we’re in; there’s always something bizarre and wonderful going on. But when we’re not working, we’ll be running around from stage to stage, trying to see as much as possible. There’s so much to see and a fair few clashes and difficult decisions to make. It wouldn’t be Glastonbury otherwise! I’m hoping to see Gabriels, Shame, Max Richter and Viagra Boys – to name a few. And I’m a little bit TOO excited about Elton John… I’ll probably have to pop to the loo about 10 times before his set!

The T.U.R.D.I.S. is in Bella’s Field at Glastonbury from 11am to 7pm Thursday to Sunday.