As somebody who regularly attends comic conventions and often immerses herself in other worlds, there's really no greater thrill than dressing up and playing 'let's pretend' for a little while. I'm always thrilled to find new ways in which us grown ups (apparently) can let our hair down, dress up in silly clothes, and leave the real world behind far behind. One of my absolute favourite ways to do that is by attending the 'Secret Cinema' event that take place each year in London.
I adore Secret Cinema. I've attended five of their events now - Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back), Dr. Strangelove, 28 Days Later, Moulin Rogue and now I've just come back from their 2018 offering; Blade Runner.
In short, the whole event was incredible, but I've honestly come to expect nothing less from Secret Cinema. After watching Luke Skywalker land above us in a life-sized X-Wing, after evading zombies while running through the streets of London, and after drinking absinthe in a bohemian cafe on a dark Parisian street, I had faith that this event would be just as immersive and exciting as the others. I'm a sucker for cyberpunk and urban dystopia, and while I wasn't immediately familiar with the movie (we all made a point of watching the film before attending Secret Cinema, as I believe your experience is heightened if you know what's going on and who the key players are), I knew that Blade Runner was the granddaddy of the genre, and I couldn't wait to see what they would do with it.
What they did with it was incredible. If you aren't familiar with Secret Cinema and how it operates, it's pretty much a fully immersive interactive experience that puts you smack bang in the middle of the movie. Prior to the event, you get given a character and role to play that all unfolds on fully themed and completely authentic-looking websites and social media pages. They advise you on costume choices, but generally you can wing it a little so long as you look the part and as long as you wear a few key items that help their actors identify your role. When you actually get to the event, everybody, and I mean everybody is in character, from the security team to the barmen, and sometimes it's even difficult to tell the actors from the more dedicated attendees.
From there, the night is up to you and entirely dependent on how much you want to put into it. You can absolutely go straight to the bar, find some food and sit back to enjoy the atmosphere, but I really would recommend just plain throwing yourself into the moment and having a little fun. At first, you might feel silly talking to actors (who are all incredible and put up with even the most reluctant attendees), but it really doesn't take long to shed your regular self and become your new persona. I put that entirely down to the sheer talent and improv skills of the actors, as well as the detail to every set you'll encounter. And boy, were the sets in their Blade Runner event amazing.
My role was a 'professional friend', a companion or, as Hannibal Chew addressed me, 'sex lady'. My partner, Moose, and my friend Sarah were both Tannhauser Industrialists while my friend Luke was a Tannhauser Technician. In the paperwork we were sent before the event, we were all sent a contact to find (each one a key character in the movie), and items to bring that we might use to interact with them. I won't spoil too much of what we did in the evening, because the event is still running and I really don't want to ruin it for anybody else, but it was all absolutely incredible. We spent most of our time running between the Snake Pit (one of the bars in the film) and Chew's laboratory, tasked with various activities that we got so involved with that we ended up taking a moment out just to plan how best to manipulate it all to suit us and our individual roles best. I ended up with a hilarious interaction with Mr. Lewis (the owner of the 'Snake Pit' bar) that set me off into hysterics (while Mr. Lewis himself was 100% professional, in character and incredible, despite my completely melting down on him in an uncontrollable giggle-fit at my own poor performance.)
I can't speak too highly of the event. The atmosphere inside was thick and loud and neon, just as you would imagine the atmosphere of a futuristic dystopian L.A might be. They advised us to bring umbrellas and raincoats to protect us from the 'acid rain', and boy, did it rain - even though the whole event took place inside (apart from the queuing area, which is the only place you were allowed to take photos as, per every Secret Cinema event, cameras and phones are strictly forbidden and you're forced to seal them away in baggies before you enter).
Secret Cinema is Disney World levels of stage design, actor professionalism and immersion. People wince at the prices (this latest event had three ticket tiers, £48, £60ish and VIP passes at around £100) but when you compare the night to a trip to the theatre, it really isn't that extortionate. For that money, you get an interactive show, a game that lets you completely lose yourself in the moment, and, of course, a movie screening at the end of it all.
I'm not actually a huge fan of Blade Runner - it's 'okay', and I'm grateful for what it did for the cyberpunk/dystopian genre (uh, y'know, by creating it) - but it's not a movie I'd actually plan to ever see in the cinema or make any special arrangements to view again. However, because I love the setting and the world it presents, I loved this Secret Cinema event just as much as the others, even despite not being the biggest fan of the film. That's all down to the sheer level of work and attention to detail that the Secret Cinema company puts into their productions.
Honestly, if the show wasn't entirely sold out, I'd go back. I'd go back if only to experience the world they've managed so successfully, yet again, to create. Let's face it, where else in this world can I dance in acid rain or eat noodles under a neon soaked sky?
Hi! I'm Selena an artist, blogger and gamer!
Dream Somehow is my little corner of the internet where I talk about life, the universe and everything! Here, you'll find travel, adventures, vintage style, life in the South West of England, a little bit of Disney dreaming and a whole lot of geeky nonsense. If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here!
Illustrated icon of me by Tinrobo ❤