Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet review: Fans of Romeo and Juliet will have a ball with the latest Secret Cinema venture.

Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet review by Kat Hughes.

Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell for Secret Cinema

The past has seen Secret Cinema recreate Hill Valley, a Death Star, a zombie outbreak, Kellerman’s resort, the Moulin Rouge, and most recently the Los Angeles of Blade Runner. Now the Secret Cinema team turn their attention to Verona Beach for a very special and immersive re-telling of Romeo and Juliet.

The film, released in 1996 and directed by Baz Luhrmann, managed something that other filmmakers had been trying to do for years – it made Shakespeare hip, cool and accessible to the young. Suddenly with Luhrmann’s brilliant modern take of the famous play ‘The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’, it wasn’t such a tough text to study at school (mainly because chances were you got to watch it in class). Luhrmann moved the setting of his take on the two star-crossed lovers from Verona Rome to California. The Verona Beach here is much more of a Venice Beach location. He throws away outdated weaponry like swords, and morphs them into the more relevant and up-to-date handgun. Our warring factions of young Montague and Capulet men become gangs, and the duels become super-stylized gangster standoffs.

Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell for Secret Cinema

Romeo and Juliet is one of the films that helped launch both Claire Danes (who plays Juliet) and Leonardo DiCaprio (the lovelorn Romeo), and along with Titanic, is the reason for thousands of DiCaprio posters going up on teenage girls’ walls the world over. They aren’t the best thing in the film however, it’s actually the support cast that steal it. Miriam Margolyes adds a nice balance of heart and humour to her role of Juliet’s nurse, Dash Mihok is brilliant as the sensible peacekeeper Benvolio, and Paul Rudd is just downright hilarious as Juliet’s would be suitor Dave Paris. In all honesty though, this film belongs to two men: John Leguizamo as ice-cool Prince of Cats Tybalt, and Harold Perrineau with his cross-dressing and ill-fated Mercutio. But we’ve all seen the film and know how good it is, what you’re here for is to find out whether Secret Cinema’s take is any good. Worry thee not fair reader, it’s spectacular.

From the instant you leave the real world (and your mobile phone) behind, you’re whisked away to Verona Beach. Somehow Secret Cinema has managed to birth a microcosm of California in London. The exceptionally hot weather of recent weeks helps sell this even more, the sun-scorched ground echoing the beachy terrain seen in Romeo and Juliet. The attention to detail is phenomenal, the team having recreated several locations from the film, all complete with characters waiting to interact with you. As you wander the venue Montague and Capulets run amok all around and you have two options, join them and immerse yourself in the story, or you can go hang out at the bar. Both are perfectly fine options and both combine to create the same party and festival feel. I’m not sure quite how they managed it, but from the instant our feet crossed the threshold we were overwhelmed by an intense party atmosphere with everyone there having a good time.

Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell for Secret Cinema

Those familiar with previous Secret Cinema events will know that the fun doesn’t stop when the feature begins. As the film unfolds, characters met earlier in the evening weave around you, performing specific scenes alongside the film. I’ve covered a few of these shows now and I can honestly say that this one has by far the most side-by-side action, so don’t get lost in the film or you’ll miss some truly special moments.

Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet is a stunningly detailed, perfectly cast, fun-fuelled immersive experience. A true love letter to one of the best movies of the nineties, this event is an absolute must for fans. Get ready for the party of the summer.

Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet review by Kat Hughes, August 2018.

Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet runs from 8th – 25th August 2018. Tickets for the event can be found here.

Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet