By Greg Wetherall
Secret Cinema is back. In keeping with reputation, the list of things that we cannot talk about is substantial. To be totally honest with you, that’s a good thing. Whilst it makes writing a review a tricky task, why would we want to ruin it for others? And why would anyone planning on attending wish to ruin it for themselves?
As oft-discussed, in the modern age there is all too little mystery, and any that presents itself is often sacrificed at the earliest opportunity. Why? Because it’s all too easy. Rather than waiting, we want to know every crumb of detail and we want to know it now. Curiosity killed the cat. The cat foraged on Google and shattered the romance of the unknown.
Secret Cinema began its life in 2007 as the brainchild of Fabien Riggall. Since then, his patented formula has grown exponentially, and famously culminated in the 2 month straddle of London’s Olympic Park site for the Back to the Future event last year. Bearing the hallmarks of the bold ambition that have marked its place as a cult phenomenon, the project has now turned its attention to the most iconic, epic and grand of all film franchises; the Star Wars saga.
For an event that has had a history in courting controversy – such as last year’s last-minute cancellation of the early part of the run - the inflated ticket price has been the biggest source of grumbles this time around. And the cost is significant. At a hefty £78 price tag, how could this be possibly be worth it?
Well, the answer is not quite black and white, but more complicated. After all, how do you judge value for money? It is an arbitrary calculation, really. Film-wise, audiences know exactly what they are getting, so you are therefore paying for an experience. And this is a hell of an experience. The senses are bombarded perpetually with the sort of relentless harassment that might otherwise result in an injunction.
That said; the wallet is also under duress. It is important to remember that the cost of the ticket stub is not where the expense ends, and it would be a lie not to say that a slight drop in price would negate the quibbles, as further disgruntlement can be sourced from the festival priced food and small cans of lager.
For some, this will simply be too much. But how can you put a price on indelible memories? This is a thoroughly unique experience. A true one-off in an age where nothing ever feels that way. A time when all those bands who split up never to reform again are suddenly trudging around the country for another round of their old hits. This is not like that. That is what makes it special and that is what makes it unique.
This writer has seen it stated elsewhere that any individual experience has been forfeited in place of homogenisation; a grand and bland scale. This was simply not the case for this attendee. There were individual narrative strands playing out for those who were in a certain place at a certain time. Of course, this brings an element of luck, but if you engage with the itinerant nature of the evening, by wandering around and engaging with the spectacle, things will come to you. If you remain at the bar or the food stall, this might not be the case, so if ticket holders should take any advice from this review; just go with it. Ditch any reserved, self-consciousness at the door and let the fantastical sweep wash over you. Engage and participate. The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.
The immersion on offer certainly creates a giddy and contagious atmosphere. It envelops attendees from the get-go, as they descend into what constitutes a thrilling and dazzling journey into the heart of George Lucas’ universe. This is an experience like no other; one that brings all the wonder and magic of the cinema to life right before your eyes. If you do surrender to the cost, then any further resistance is entirely futile. You’ll be utterly captivated. This is the Star Wars event that you’re looking for.
SECRET CINEMA Presents STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK runs now until 27th September 2015 www.secretcinema.org/tickets
*Photo credits: Mike Massaro, Olivia Weetch and Paul Cochrane