4 June- 27 September 2015, a top secret location in London
So how was the latest Secret Cinema extravaganza?
Jordan Farley journeys to a galaxy far, far away for the latest Secret Cinema extravaganza
After wowing crowds with a remarkable recreation of Hill Valley c1955 for last year’s open air Back To The Future screenings, Secret Cinema had a tough task ahead if they hoped to top their most elaborate production yet. With Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back they’ve been ( mostly) successful.
We’ll avoid a spoiler splurge as much as possible, because half the joy of Secret Cinema is that you don’t know what’s in store. It’s important to note, however, that the more you put in, the more you’ll get back. Every attendee is assigned a faction and a character. I was Kazdan Krell of the Creative Council. Others could be starfighters, mercenaries, governors or galactic explorers, each with their own loosely defined costumes. No one’s going to turn you away if you rock up in civvies, but it goes against the spirit of the evening; even if, ultimately, your faction doesn’t matter. Everyone is simply a member of RebelX – a rogue alliance located on Earth who soon make their escape to an iconic Star Wars locale...
The live- action element is essentially a trip through A New Hope, with two key locations recreated in impressive detail. The first is full of market stalls ( top tip: eat here!) and dusty buildings, and is populated by actors who never break character. Interacting with the cast is key to securing passage to the next area. We found this the most enjoyable aspect of the whole evening as you use your accumulated knowledge to gain allies, bust fellow travellers out of prison or bargain your way into the most notorious bar in the galaxy. You’re left entirely to your own devices to work out what to do next, which might frustrate anyone seeking a more passive experience. Make sure you arrive early, because as there’s so much to see and do it’s very easy to miss things.
The second major area is less successful in terms of interaction, but has a show- stopping climax that left us grinning like loons ( Must. Not. Spoil.) and leads straight into the screening. In comparison to everything that comes before it, however, the actual presentation of The Empire Strikes Back feels like an anti- climax. Whereas BTTF was full of incredible, crowd- pleasing live- action elements, The Empire Strikes Back’s theatrical elements are thoroughly underwhelming, amounting to sparse appearances by costumed actors recreating odd bits of action here and there. The big problem is that instead of presenting the film on one screen for the assembled masses here there are four simultaneous showings, which left our audience oddly muted and sparse, ruining the atmosphere. On the upside: actual seats!
The real question is: does it justify the expense? At £ 78 each tickets aren’t cheap, and that’s before you’ve invested in ( optional) costumes, faction scarves, props and pricey food and drink on site. But there’s a good reason why tickets cost that much – the scale and showmanship is awe- inspiring and won’t be forgotten in a hurry. For Star Wars fans it’s a dream night out. Impressive. Most impressive. www.secretcinema.org
You’re left to your own devices to work out what to do next
You would not believe what she’s looking at! Hold on, you say, there were no Jawas in Empire!