The Red Bulletin June 2019

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Secret Cinema

At an undisclosed location in

London, the bustle of activity

is afoot. Inside a cavernous

warehouse spanning 6,000m 2 ,

contractors feverishly put

the finishing touches to a

ginormous set that resembles…

well, we’d best not say.

Performers rehearse routines in a startling

recreation of the backstreets of… actually,

never mind. A man who looks suspiciously like

Daniel Craig walks among them, broodingly

scanning his surroundings. Studying him is

Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond

movies. This scene may or may not have

happened; we can’t really tell you, because

the first rule of Secret Cinema is: tell no one.

The second rule is: immerse yourself. This is

what hundreds of thousands of people have

done during Secret Cinema’s 12-year run.

It’s a commitment delivered on a promise –

you pay more than the regular cinema price

to see an old film. You’re told what to wear

and where to meet at a certain time on a

certain day. You’re forbidden to bring your

smartphone inside, or take pictures. And by

the time you leave, you’ve had one of the most

incredible experiences of your life. If that

sounds like a religion, it’s not far off. There

are two types of people in this world: those

who know the secret and those who don’t.

In 2012, Andrea Moccia attended Secret

Cinema presents The Shawshank Redemption.

The ticket directed him to an east London

library, where he was ushered into a makeshift

courtroom. “The judge sentenced you for

a crime you hadn’t committed,” he recalls.

“Policemen loaded you into a blacked-out van

that took you to a school transformed into a

prison, where other audience members were

shouting at you. You were stripped, put in a

prison uniform and locked in a cell. I left that

night thinking, ‘These people are insane and

I have to work with them.’” Today, he’s one

of lead producers for Secret Cinema.

The first production I worked on was

Brazil,” says Moccia. “Day one, I walked into

the 12-floor building they’d transformed

into this dystopian world and got stuck in

a lift with [the film’s director] Terry Gilliam.

That was a baptism of fire.”

This is an apt phrase for anyone experiencing

their first Secret Cinema – a six-hour adventure

where you enter a sandbox recreation of a

movie’s universe with a narrative that unfolds

until it reaches a crescendo at the exact moment

the film begins. Last year, when Secret

Cinema adapted Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie

Romeo + Juliet – recreating the landscape of

Verona Beach for an audience of 5,000 a

night, with choirs, police cars, and a masked

ball at the Capulet mansion – the film director

described it as “a whole new art form”.

That art involves what Secret Cinema calls

‘mirror moments’, where performers reenact

scenes in perfect synchronisation with the

on-screen action. Before that, audiences

might encounter these characters on their

adventure. “One of my friends at Romeo +

Juliet texted to say girls were chasing the

actor playing Leonardo DiCaprio and crying

because he looked so real,” says Susan

Kulkarni, head of costume at Secret Cinema.

“I was like, ‘We nailed it,’ because that’s the

feeling I had as a teenager watching the film.”

For an event the size of Romeo + Juliet,

Kulkarni had a team of more than 30 working

on as many as 700 outfits on rotation. “The

actors have two or three changes throughout

the evening, then we costume the bar staff,

security, even the cleaners, because one

person wearing the wrong thing pulls you out

of the world.” Her team has to consider every

eventuality. “We create a capsule wardrobe

for each character, because if it’s raining you

have to imagine what else Juliet would wear.”

Kulkarni also has to consider the look of

the general public: “We use the audience to

Brazil, Croydon

The main character

had to jump off a

tower block and abseil

wearing huge wings,

but seem to be flying,”

says Kulkarni. “We

only had a couple of

days to create the

wings. You figure it

out as you go.”

SECRET CINEMA/HANSON LEATHERBY

44 THE RED BULLETIN

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