“I can’t remember the name of the filthy commie!” I’d only just arrived at the Secret Cinema classified location, and had already failed my first task. After committing the right password to memory to find the hidden 1960s nightclub, I’d forgotten the name of the person I was meant to pump for information, and report back to my communications officer. I’d never make it through spy academy.
In my defence, I had got somewhat distracted by a brawl between two G.Is as I rushed across the compound, and along the way a ‘journalist’ tried to buy whatever was in the cardboard folder I was carrying in exchange for jumping the bar queue. Usually you wouldn’t go to such lengths for a screening, but then that’s the beauty of Secret Cinema, you don’t just watch the film; you are the film. Now’s the time you can draw on your inner Bond and act out those spy fantasies you’ve been secretly harbouring.
Unlike previous productions where punters know in advance which movie they were watching, the Tell No One events are shrouded in secrecy, with only a few drip-fed clues in the weeks before your visit. This includes the location, which is only disclosed after you’ve bought a ticket. Going to Secret Cinema requires a bit of work: ticket holders are asked to register on an online military database, where they are given a character they are to play for the evening and which props to bring to enhance the experience. This meant I spent a great bulk of the night clutching a red rose and carrying a cardboard folder as a Government Official, wandering down a maze of corridors, trying to find the right character actor who could send me off on another mission. What these props mean and what the outcome of the missions are, I couldn’t possibly say. And not just because I couldn’t figure out what the rose was for.
Nor can I tell you which film is screened after all the spying shenanigans – it’s a secret. However, despite its period setting, Secret Cinema are very much on the nose when it comes to tapping into current fears about cartoonish political tub-thumpers and the power they hold: enter a brief cameo of Donald Trump in some pre-movie footage about the Cold War.
Secret Cinema encourages you to leave your phone and the real world at the door, and get stuck into to a truly immersive experience. At times, you’re not just watching a film but also enjoying some great theatre (as well as supping on some delicious cocktails from Bourne & Hollingsworth). Part of the charm is seeing actors lip-sync to key scenes and some of the casting is uncanny. Audience participation doesn’t even end when the film starts; play along sufficiently enough in the first half of the evening (and maybe give a rose to the right person), and you could get a shout out and a part to play in proceedings.
If you can handle all the secretiveness before the event, Secret Cinema is well worth a look in. And if you ever figure out what the red rose is for – then tell no one.
SECRET CINEMA: TELL NO ONE is on now until 20th March. Visit www.secretcinema.org for tickets.
Main picture: Hanson Leatherby
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