Prepare for an adventure. I mean literally prepare, you’ll need to be wearing long johns.
How does one talk about something without talking about it? With a great deal of enthusiasm because Secret Cinema is an absolute blast. This was myself and my partners’ first time taking part, and it was not without a great deal of trepidation. As we previously reported (here), the promotional material is mysterious, intriguing and even a little unsettling. They tell us that ‘Secret Cinema, working with The State of Oak Hampton, will clamp down on vicious crimes through investigation and punish the thought as well as the offence.’ You are told to dress for court (ladies must also wear suits) and as you arrive, you realise that you are on trial.
What happens then is something to behold.
We cannot say what awaits, but we were completely immersed in what is essentially a surprisingly large scale theatrical production. It is very easy to be so drawn into the experience that I almost forgot we were there to see a film. Narrative points and abstract themes from the feature are woven into the fabric of the evening, and when we do get to sit down to watch the movie, there is great pleasure to be had in recognition. We notices specific occurrences from the last few hours happening up there on screen and we realise that it’s not just a themed event, we were inside the film. The actors (who will simply not break character, even if you ask where the nearest tube is on the way out) use snippets of dialogue from the movie and if you recognise them, you’ll have fun guessing what the surprise feature will be. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself thinking ‘Ahhhhh, so that’s what that was…’ thus concepts and quotes become far more striking than the film makers could have possibly intended. Particularly the reference to ‘the storm.’
One of the cleverest aspects of the show (and it is quite the show) is how they work the screening itself into the narrative. After we got to eat (even catering is brilliantly in keeping with the whole thing) we were free to roam the building, enjoying various rooms, activities and role-plays. But when a particular event occurred, everyone was gathered into a single place where a massive revelation was met with roars of approval from all the participants. The storm finally arrived and it was truly euphoric, as we realised we are living one of the great moments in cinema. It was then we were ushered into the screening room and the evening climaxes with the film that inspired it all. The title card was met with cheers and applause in what is the first of the pantomime-like moments in the viewing as we booed, whooped and indeed boozed along with the cinematic classic.
The role play continued until we left the venue and have to fend for ourselves in the real world. Secret Cinema is an unreal experience, quite unlike anything we (or at least I) have done before. If you’re game for a mysterious and fully immersive role-play that’s fun, occasionally alarming but utterly unforgettable, then take a trip to The State of Oak Hampton. But be prepared to pay for your sins.
And wear long johns.
This particular run ends on the 2nd of December. There are a few tickets still available and can be found here.
Photography: Laura Little
They’ve also got a couple more irons in the fire, so to speak, check out all those details here: