Who's the dummy?

'IS that Freddie Mercury?' demanded a small Australian girl. 'No, dear,' replied her mother after careful consideration: 'That's Prince Charles.'

The confusion is understandable. The famous Madame Tussaud's royal tableau in the Grand Hall ('the essence of Madame Tussaud's,' according to the pounds 1 souvenir guide) has been the subject of some frantic reshuffling. Captain Mark Phillips has been lugged upstairs to reside in the 'Garden Party' along with such showbiz celebs as Dame Edna Everage and Paul Daniels. Fergie has been moved sideways along the tableau to stage far-left and looks ominously semi-detached - clearly one step from relegation to Paul Daniels country.

In these circumstances, it would hardly surprise anybody to find Freddie Mercury beside Prince Philip: the Queen with 'Queen'. At least it would be interesting.

It is hard to see what makes Madame Tussaud's so successful. Yet for the past six years it has been Britain's most popular tourist attraction to charge admission - last year drawing 2.25 million visitors. Coaches disgorge eager passengers in an apparently seamless throng. In the queue, foreign voices predominate; about 60 per cent are from overseas. So what brings them here?

Two girls from South Africa said they expected Tussaud's to be the highlight of their visit: 'Some friends of ours took amazing photos when they were here recently. It looks fantastic.' It is certainly not cheap: pounds 6.40 for adults, pounds 4.15 for under 16s, pounds 16.95 for a family ticket.

The first section is the aforementioned Garden Party of celebrities. In this party, time has stood still for at least a decade. Who's that in the Mao suit? It's a 30-year-old Ken Livingstone - presumably well-known to everyone in Stuttgart and Cape Town. And still back in the Seventies, meet Telly Savalas (Kojak) and Manuel (Fawlty Towers). Compared with Mr T (The A Team) or Dudley Moore, the likes of Terry Wogan and Kylie Minogue seem shockingly up-to-date.

It must be hard to keep on top of trends in the waxwork business. But it is impossible to excuse, for example, the absence of Madonna (the sculptors cannot blame a lack of available anatomical detail).

If the Garden Party celebrities are obscure, the choice of politicians, royalty and artistic figures in the Grand Hall is positively bizarre (remember Kemal Ataturk or Konrad Adenauer?). Most do recognise General de Gaulle: 'Wasn't he tall? He was a tall general,' said a woman. 'But he had revolting ears,' observed her friend.

Neil Kinnock is here, but John Smith is not. For some inexplicable reason, Maggie Thatcher occupies a dusty corner next to Bob Geldof. At the piano is Ludwig van Beethoven, who looks suspiciously like a recycled Keith Richards.

The final scene is the famous Chamber of Horrors, guarded by Adolf Hitler (surely here is a chance to strike a more contemporaneous note with Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot). The essence of the Chamber of Horrors was to see famous murderers in the flesh - waxy flesh at least. But Tussaud's murderers are no longer notorious: who remembers Crippen, Christie or the Acid Bath killer?

Even the more modern criminals represented here - Dennis Nielsen, Donald Nielsen or Charles Manson - are too old to provoke much horror.

Yet, according to Tussaud's, 95 per cent of visitors claim to be 'very satisfied' and there is a high return rate. Moreover, it doesn't rest on its laurels: Tussaud's has an active sales team with a strong presence at foreign travel trade shows.

Most of Tussaud's success, however, derives from the fact that it is now high on the list of London's must-see sights, along with Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard. 'It's an enviable position,' says Juliet Simpkins, of Tussaud's. 'Waxworks in other cities are generally poor quality. Tussaud's is the biggest and the oldest. It's also fun.'

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?