Here's a post I meant to make a long time ago, but at the time I didn't want to mess up my Disneyland Paris blogging (which I still need to finish, eep!). Since I've now abandoned the idea of keeping those posts in any sort of sensible order, I figured now would be a good enough time to talk about Secret Cinema: Doctor Strangelove!
For those who don't know what Secret Cinema is, it's basically a live interactive theatrical event themed after a particular movie of their choosing, complete with a bar and food vendors and, of course, a showing of the actual film. You're given a character, a whole new persona for the evening, and encouraged to dress accordingly. There are actually two different types of event; 'Secret Cinema Presents', and simply 'Secret Cinema'. 'Secret Cinema' is how they started, with events that were, well, sort of secret. You'd book your tickets blindly without any knowledge as to what the film was. Weeks before the showing, they'll send you the details of your outfit, your character and any props you should bring along, but won't reveal the film.
They seemed to stop putting on events like this, in favour of their incredibly popular 'Secret Cinema Presents'. These events seem to be much larger affairs, where the movie and theme is broadcast publicly from day one, which encourages more people to go, secure in the knowledge that the night will be one they'll enjoy. This started with 'Back To The Future', which was incredibly popular and looked amazing, I'm so sad I missed out on it!. Then, they put on 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back', which was Moose and my first foray into the world of Secret Cinema, and you can read all about that here. Put simply, it was incredible. We had an amazing time, loved every second of it so much that when they announced their next event, we jumped at the chance to book tickets.
This time, the event was simply Secret Cinema. All we knew from Secret Cinema was that the film seemed very 1960s, and very Cold War-y. Rumours started to spread that it might be Doctor Strangelove, which excited me no end because I actually hadn't seen it before, despite being a sucker for the Cold War and the Cold War era. I couldn't await to be designated a character for the evening so I could start buying props and costumes - 1960s clothes, be still my beating heart!
Finally, we received the email, and I was assigned a FCD, which was an airman, and Moose was assigned DOD, another military role. I actually ended up cheating and changing my character to a GOV - Government Official, so I could wear a pretty dress rather than a jump suit - I know, I know, kind of cheating really, but I did not want to buy a whole military airman outfit! Moose was fortunate to find his outfit cheap as a fancy dress piece, and I think it looked great! But then, I might be a little bias.
Finally the day came, and we dressed up, sorted out our props (I was to bring a rose, Moose had to provide surveillance maps) and our IDs, and we went down to the secret location (Canada Water, same place as Star Wars, actually). We were assigned different entrances depending on rank and ID but fortunately, Moose and I had the same door despite being different departments. We queued up together, and the whole area had been done up to resemble a military air base. Even from outside, with the actors not breaking character at all, it was very immersive and very impressive. We were so excited!
Now, Moose and I are admittedly quite a couple-y couple, and when we were warned we'd be separated for the start of the evening due to being different ranks, it originally put a dampener on things. We'd purchased these tickets in lieu of Valentines gifts, so we actually kind of wanted to celebrate together. So, when friend Laura (who had been to the event days earlier), warned us that we'd be separated, we were determined to make the most of it despite the circumstances! She advised that we should just throw ourselves into it and meet up after we've performed the tasks our characters had been given, so we arranged to meet up at the bar, and went our separate ways.
As a Government Lady, my first task involved going into a secret bar to talk to Lola. The bar was gorgeous. The decoration and scenery was just perfect. It was sexy and dimly lit with beautiful live music, beaded curtains to little dark alcoves where people were busy conducting their business. It was amazing! I was with some other Government Officials and we stuck together like glue. A lady named Purity taught us how to dance while we waited for a cocktail, and then we spoke to Lola. She tasked us with finding a diplomat.
And then ....it kind of all went down hill.
We bumbled around, as a group, lost and unsure what we were meant to do. We milled around the bar, before deciding to go back to Lola, who was now busy with some more people. We tried to overhear what she was telling them, but it was entirely different. We tried to wait to ask her again, but by then it was obvious that we were in the way of other people. So, we went to where we saw a bunch of diplomats, who were all paying guests like us, not actors. Surely they weren't what we had to find? So ...we just ended up horribly confused. I decided to wait around in the bar for a while, because I'd previously planned to meet Moose there and figured he might turn up (and it was such a lovely bar, I could have stayed there all night, honestly!) In the end one girl decided to go find her partner, who was had been assigned a Press character, and we left the bar into the outside area.
And that's when I realised why Moose hadn't been to the bar yet... because the rest of the event was huge and open and full of people that didn't know our secret bar existed! My new Government friend and I wandered around, lost for a while, until a chap came up to us and asked if we'd spoken to the Russian Diplomat yet. What? We were so confused. He advised that we should go and talk to him, so we wandered back to the secret bar, hoping for something, anything, to happen.
And honestly, that's how we spent most the night. Lost, confused, wandering around, following people who looked like they had a lead. Eventually we found the Russian Diplomat, who told us to go and do something outside, and that's where I finally bumped into Moose again, who had had an even more disorganised time than I. He'd been originally tasked with finding some secret codes, which he wrote down, and then the group of people he'd been with had all split up and nobody knew what they were doing - one had just gone to the food area and stayed there, and when Moose asked an actor for help, he was told it was all 'top secret'. Helpful! So when he finally found me, a good hour or so later, he was pretty annoyed. We hadn't eaten yet, and hadn't known there were actually two bars - he'd been waiting in an army mess, having no clue about the secret bar I'd been in. We were stressed because we wanted to get food before the film, annoyed because we'd spent so much of the time lost and confused, and generally not very satisfied!
By contrast, the milling around at their Star Wars event was amazing! We were free to come and go anywhere as we pleased, and while we had specific tasks to perform (trading with Jawas, for example!), it was all fun and easy and we didn't feel pressured or lost at all. We had had plenty of time to grab food and drink and meet actors and it was just generally very, very awesome. I get that with a Cold War themed movie, secrecy and deception is kind of par for the course, but when somebody who has paid nearly £70 asks for advice as to how they can get the very best out of their evening, it'd probably be nice to assist in that a little.
Reunited, we went and grabbed food, I showed Moose our secret bar and then it was time for the movie. Now, this is where the evening really was wonderful. The movie was incredible, and the actors really pulled you into the story. The film itself - Doctor Strangelove - was so so good! I'm so glad I watched it for the first time in such an amazing way - the climax ended with huge confetti canons exploding above our heads and (despite the hugely damning end to the film), we all rose and clapped and whooped for joy because it was such an amazing production. It was excellent.
We left, milled around in the rooms after that. There was an after party in the secret bar, but we decided to go home instead as it was late and the location was pretty far out from where Moose lives.
Over all, the night was... okay. The film was incredible. My night was significantly better than Moose's, I think, but simply because I was lost with other people who were also lost, which isn't a particularly great selling point, to be honest. Also, we had the secret bar, which I could have happily stayed in all evening, but it probably wasn't worth £70 to stay in the bar all night.
I cannot fault the actors at all. Everybody was great! Nobody broke character, and they were really good at pulling you in, even with small interactions that have no relevance to tasks or plot at all (a soldier got engaged in the bar and got very, very drunk, for example!) The scenery and environment was also really really great, but I'm a sucker for that stuff anyway. The biggest let down for us was that I think they were trying to do far too much with the event. Optional tasks are great fun - like I said, Star Wars was a blast! - but when you're guided into it, separated from your party and then forced to spend spend most of the evening wandering around because you missed something somewhere and have no way of fixing it... just ...eh. I heard a lot of people making the same complaint, which is quite reassuring since I was worried maybe it was just us! And it's such a shame, because I really did try to get involved and throw myself into it, and Moose did too. He showed me all the notes he'd taken and the codes he'd deciphered and I could tell he was really inspired at the start. The evening just plain became a confused mess midway through and I really hope in the future they revert back to the open-ended tasks where you can actually relax and enjoy yourselves.
The highlight of the entire evening for me was the film, because it's a great movie anyway and because the way they presented it was absolutely wonderful. The rest of the evening ...not so much.
We're eager to give Secret Cinema another try, though, since Star Wars was so danged good, maybe this one was a blip? So we've booked tickets to Secret Cinema's next production - '28 Days Later'! We're actually due to go in a couple of weeks and I am so excited! It's their first time with a horror movie and I hope it's really, really creepy! We haven't been assigned characters yet and I don't really know how they're going to go about it all, but I suppose not knowing is half the fun. It is a secret, after all!
I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, geeky adventures, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here.