Secret Cinema 21

Secret Cinema events are, as my friend commented “quite the strangest evening” you can imagine. This is the second Secret Cinema event I have been to, and I have to say they do kind of puzzle me. The whole thing, as you may guess,  is a great secret, so I don’t want to tell you too much, but let me set the scene. My friend and I arrived at an undisclosed location and were split up; I lucked out and was directed to a private underground jazz bar, while she was taken in for interrogation at the police headquarters.

At this point I began to rather worry that this might be the last I’d see of her all evening; in accordance with Secret Cinema’s policy we had handed over our phones on entry so I suddenly realised we had absolutely no way of reconvening. Hey, kind of like actually being in the 1920s! Crazy!

However, we found each other surprisingly quickly, which was a relief because I was envisioning an evening of searching around the many corridors of this American city council building, and there certainly was a lot of it to explore. Secret Cinema events are strange but they certainly do it properly. I find that with a great deal of immersive theatre I just want to curl into a ball and cringe, as it’s too easy to see the cracks: the actors falter, you’re clearly being spoon fed an experience, but Secret Cinema 21 is quite a cut above.

The building is unnervingly authentic  – the design team have clearly done a cracking job.  The actors (with the exception of one or two slightly dodgy accents) slipped into the night seamlessly. There were moments when I literally could not work out if some were actors or audience.

At the past Secret Cinema event I went to I felt that I got bored at the tail end,  but here more was going on. It felt like in every room you’re likely to run into some other unique experience – there was a greater performance element. At one point I felt like I was in an American law drama and at another my heart was in my mouth as someone got shot right next to me. Seriously. I got blood on my dress and that is certainly not something I’ve ever been able to say before.

It’s very strange to go to an event with no idea what to expect, what film you’re going to watch, what your evening is going to be like at all. It’s also exciting to get off the tube, notice the hordes of others dressed in 1920s attire and join the throng. I can’t tell you what the film of the night is, but it is certainly worth a watch. However, the attraction of the evening has to be everything that goes before it.

So, I think I’ve realised the point. Have you ever felt so entirely enthralled by a film that you just want to be inside its world? Well, that’s what Secret Cinema does. If you fancy time travelling, this is an evening for you.

Secret Cinema 21 is playing at an undisclosed location until 25 May For more information and tickets, see the Secret Cinema website. Photo by Hanson Leatherby.