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Review of Secret Cinema - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
It's no secret that Secret Cinema is growing at a phenomenal pace. With each project, the creative minds of the company, led by Fabien Riggall, seem to outdo themselves in creating authentic and immersive theatrical experiences for cinema fans. This Summer is no exception. Indeed, this time they have shifted gear into hyperdrive and are sailing at lightspeed!
After Disney's acqusition of the Star Wars franchise, it's only going to be a matter of time before the company dedicates whole sections of its theme parks to Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and co., but in the meantime, Secret Cinema has really set the bar high for Star Wars aficionados. The force was certainly strong at the secret location in London last night, as I attended a Secret Cinema presentation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
(Photo by Olivia Weetch)
It's always a little difficult to write these sort of reviews as the beauty of events such as these lies in the element of surprise. (The clue is in the name of the company!) I have been advised to avoid spoilers and that is what I shall adhere to in respect of preserving the show's charm and appeal. However, I will say that I was completely overwhelmed last night by the production value. I am betting those who complain about the ticket prices for Secret Cinema (ï¿½78 for adults, ï¿½52 for 8 - 17 years) haven't actually been and experienced it and seen where their money is going. The sea of actors and employees, the sets, the props, the video projections, holograms, animation, lighting, costumes, live music - it doesn't come cheap - and if you take into consideration that normal top price tickets for the West End are around ï¿½70 now (and that's not even counting those infamous 'Premium' seats which can cost up to ï¿½150!), I feel Secret Cinema's criticism concerning their prices to be unjust. Fans fork out their money for special occasions, and judging from the audience's response last night, it's an expenditure that they certainly aren't regretting.
(Photo by Mike Massaro)
So what can I tell you about the show? Well, the theatre-part of the evening is a mixture of events based on the first Star Wars film - Episode IV: A New Hope - as well as a new storyline featuring the audience members themselves as 'RebelX' comrades, fleeing from Earth to join the Alliance. As we are directed from each elaborately-decorated space, you feel yourself getting more and more into character. Indeed a (fancy) dress code is strongly recommended, as is interaction with the actors themselves. The more you suspend your disbelief and the more you get involved, the more you get out of your Star Wars experience. (I even had a brief chat with C-3PO at one point... Well, you don't get to do that every Thursday evening!)
(Photo Credit: Secret Cinema)
There is action going on all over the place, and if you're in the right place at the right time, you can witness famous scenes from 'A New Hope' acted out right in front of you. There are also many food stalls and bars to refresh you as you explore. I won't give away the finale of the show, but it certainly was iconic and something I don't think I will ever forget. And with John Williams' epic Star Wars theme blasting out, we are all directed into the cinema screen to see what happens next in Episode V: "The Empire Strikes Back."
During the movie, live actors make cameo appearances below the screen or in specially designed areas at the sides of the room to mirror the action on film. The balance is just right. It doesn't occur too often that it becomes distracting, but it does enhance the whole celebratory experience, along with the accompanying flashing lights and special effects.
(A scene from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
After the cinema-part of the evening, many audience members don't want to leave straightaway and I too found myself dancing for a good half hour amongst various alien lifeforms, whilst downing a beer, in the sand-filled nightclub.
(Photo by Paul Cochrane)
I'm not even a huge fan of Star Wars, and yet I was incredibly entertained and floored by the attention to detail and the whole atmosphere created by Secret Cinema. I can only imagine that this event is Christmas, Easter and your Birthday all come at once for all the Jedi-obsessed humanoids out there. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and even R2-D2, along with countless other bizarre, galactic creations (and Storm Troopers) are all portrayed live for your pleasure. For anyone who has wished they could walk around and feel a real part of that galaxy far, far away, this is the show for you!
(Photo by Will Cooper)
Secret Cinema's Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is booking through to 27 September 2015.
Editor at Londontheatre.co.uk & NewYorktheatreguide.com
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