Taking a trip to Oak Hampton
Screen checks out the latest Secret Cinema production, which runs to Dec 2.
Secret Cinema often seem to start with a suit, although the suit for last night could not have been further from the boiler suit we rocked for their summer production of Prometheus.
Last night, Screen went once more unto the unknown breach for Secret Cinema’s 19th production and, arguably, their finest yet.
Wholly immersive and frequently thrilling, it turns out that transforming a 190,000 sq ft building into a spaceship wasn’t even close to the heights of interactive theatre that Secret Cinema can reach.
What’s more, while we thought we knew where this current production resided, we were swiftly whisked away to a secret location with a 30-minute introduction that was intense to say the least.
The performers were so in-character that it was easy to forget that it was all an act. The easily swayed may just find themselves rocking back and forth, repeating ‘It’s not real, it’s not real’.
Once settled in, it becomes a pattern familiar to anyone who’s previously experienced Secret Cinema. If there’s a door, find out what’s behind it; that murky-looking corridor ahead, find out what’s at the end as there’ll always be something.
But what is brilliant about this production is that you find yourself becoming an actor for certain aspects of the night in subtly ingenious ways. Secret Cinema has always been an interactive experience, allowing participants to become as involved as they want, but this time your “role” affects others.
Even more than ever, it feels like an open world video game. Decisions we found ourselves making throughout the night actually shaped how the experience unfolded. But instead of thinking what you might have missed as a result of your actions, there is the belief you have had a unique experience.
Throughout the night, structured scenes take place all around and it often becomes a case of being in the right place at the right time. But the climax is a truly spine-tingling moment of live theatre before being ushered into the screening room for the night’s film.
At this point, you could find yourself disappointed that there is no more time to explore every nook and cranny of this highly impressive production.
However, for this production, there is a simple, yet utterly superb, event during the film that reminds you that - for a truly immersive cinematic experience - there’s nothing quite like Secret Cinema out there.
But wait. The film is over and we should be making our way home, sad to be back in the guise of our regular selves - yet we’ve been summoned for an overnight stay.
Secret Hotel is a new addition to Secret Cinema’s repertoire and predictably, they’ve gone all out.
Actors remain in character right up to the moment our head hits the pillow, allowing us to further explore our assumed identity, which we do with added relish, and start up as soon as our eyes open in the morning.
It is a strong addition to an already impressive collection and for anyone wanting the full experience, it cannot be recommended enough.
It turns out that 19 might be the magic number for Secret Cinema. Screen is looking forward to number 20 already… maybe something other than a suit next time though?
Further tickets for this production of Secret Cinema, which runs to Dec 2, go on sale today (Nov 7) at 1pm. For tickets, visit www.secretcinema.org/tickets and for spaces at the Secret Hotel, visit www.secretcinema.org/hotel.html
All photos: Laura Little