Secret Cinema: The Future is All G.O.O.D.

9:28 pm in Featured, Review by EVNT

We had some inside knowledge on the latest Secret Cinema. Not the film that was being shown (we wouldn’t dare to break their first rule), but that this was the most ambitious one that they had ever attempted. And that’s compared even to their last outing with the Shawshank Redemption (see our review for how good that was).

From your ticket receipt you’re directed to an incredibly involved and intriguing company intranet for G.O.O.D. that asked a series of questions before assigning you a role, a department and eventually contact details and even a security clearance number.

Once you get to the venue and your designated meeting point and contact you are introduced to a world that is a mixture of futuristic and old fashioned, sci fi hegemony and high camp, a blaze of both pomp and bureaucracy, protocol and the promise of opportunity. We need to respect that first rule of Secret Cinema still with this review and will not reveal the film or indeed plot spoil with the events of the night, but suffice to say that this was the most layered and expansive show they have put on to date – with literally dozens of areas to explore and a plethora of installations, scenes and characters.

Where the world let itself down was when you tried to push against it – there were so many spaces to cover that while many were extraordinary some were a little lacklustre or empty. More than this, the experience itself was slightly one dimensional. Plenty of shows only attempt to deliver immersion – which is often enough on its own to entertain and impress. With Secret Cinema, however, you are constantly being told that you have a role to play. With the current iteration you are literally given a career (and the opportunity to ‘upgrade’ it) and then trained in the behaviours and requirements for that job before you even get inside. Which is all good fun, and great to help you let go of the real world in preparation for the immersive world you are about to be thrown into.

 

And that’s the problem, once you’ve been taken upstairs and dropped into the world, that’s the end of that role – there is no follow up or progression, or response to you saying what you think you should be doing. Instead the only option is to find other characters to interact and more jobs to take on. And despite the exhortations before and during the performance to ‘follow the screens not your dreams’ once you did what was expected and tried to follow your dreams instead, these too didn’t appear to take you anywhere.

Just as we were feeling frustrated at our efforts to delve deeper not being rewarded our attention was caught by the first of several spectacles throughout the evening – which is what they do *so* well, and in this case delivered in an extremely innovative & dramatic way, with the results of these set-pieces at least probably better than ever before.  Added to this was the most fitting venue they have ever used –  both in terms of the space itself and then how it was used for the performance the results were dramatic, spectacular and sometimes beautifully reflective of the action taking place simultaneously on screen.

Not everyone seemed appreciative of the risks that had been taken, and mostly delivered on. If an experience labels itself as ‘cinema’ there is an expectation to deliver a traditional film viewing as part of it, which this event does not quite have. But for the sake of everything else you are surrounded with, it would seem unfair to begrudge not getting the element that any traditional cinema in the country can offer you…