Welcome to the ultimate Shakespeare-ience.
When Baz Luhrmann turned classic Shakespearean love tragedy Romeo and Juliet into a 90’s action-packed mega blockbuster, the world went wild. Rightfully so, he did it damn spectacularly if we do say so ourselves. Luhrmann managed to produce a masterpiece that was both contemporary and relatable for audiences of its time, while still maintaining the original dialogue used in a traditional Shakespeare play. A true classic-meets-contemporary success. And so, when we thought Romeo and Juliet couldn’t get any better than Luhrmann’s adaptation, around comes is very own immersive theatrical experience as presented by Secret Cinema.
For die hard fans such as ourselves, we were over the moon about SC’s choice of film this month. If you’re unfamiliar with Secret Cinema, it is an innovative company that specialises in creating participatory ‘secret worlds’ based on some of our all-time favourite movies. Guests are given a ‘persona’ and are required to dress up accordingly (though it’s not a prerequisite, many people to follow suit). Previously, SC have performed and screened classics such as Moulin Rouge, Dirty Dancing, The Shaw Shank Redemption, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Back to the Future and many more. We’re absolutely devastated we’ve missed out on some of these past screenings, but there can only be more greatness to come!
Granted this was our first Secret Cinema experience, absolutely every aspect of the event was pretty show-stopping to us. Coming from Adelaide, Australia, where we don’t really have anything along the lines of a real-life cinematic experience, we were beyond excited to take part in a concept so new to us.
Arriving at the venue – Gunnesbury Park – we weren’t entirely sure to expect. We were greeted with what appeared to be a festival-like set-up, even down to the bag check at entry, food stalls and mass drunken crowds. With multiple stage set-ups in the vast space, there were actors performing in every corner of the park. We arrived to one of the stages where glittery nuns and who we believed to be Tybalt were up on stage leading a crowd dance; it was crazy to see just how much everyone was getting into it! Not a single person sat out, absolutely everyone was joining in on the synchronised dance movies. There were also no phones in sight; everyone was simply enjoying the moment. We soon found out why when we got told off for using our phones and were asked to delete the footage as the security watched over our shoulder to ensure we did so. I suppose it’s not really ‘secret’ cinema if it’s plastered all over social media, after all!
Not only were there cleverly themed food stalls such as ‘Mac & Beth’s’, there were literally glitter stalls just like at a music festival. We went to one that exclusively sold sequin backpacks, bodacious jewellery and face jewels for those looking to get real into the festival spirit. Hosting the event like a festival was quite a good idea considering the nature of Baz Luhrmann’s film; it’s a very lively, colourful and sparkly movie, particularly with the party scene and Mercutio’s lush sequinned get-up (which was reenacted magnificently, might we add). Oh, and a killer soundtrack (Radiohead 4ever).
When it was time for the film screening, there was loads of cheering and shouting and just all-round excitement. The audience got super into it, with many reciting parts of the script, dancing along to the party scenes and clapping/’oooo-ing’ in intense moments. One of our favourite recollections was when three of the audience members got up and acted out the aquarium scene; one dressed as Romeo, the other dressed as Juliet and the third DRESSED AS THE AQUARIUM. Ingenious.
Now, one of the best and worst things about the day was the weather. It was forecast to rain and silly us had not come prepared, but we were fortunately offered rain coats by roaming staff. You might be wondering: how then could the experience have been made better with crappy weather? Well, it just so happens that it is very common for a Shakespearean tragedy to incorporate ‘pathetic fallacy’ as a metaphorical means of foreshadowing demise. Pathetic fallacy is simply defined as “the attribution of human feelings and responses to inanimate things or animals, especially in art and literature”, and in Shakespeare’s world, this often comes in the form of weather.
While we were watching the film, we were up to the scene where dark clouds roll over just before the death of Mercutio and then rain follows as Romeo avenges his friend by killing Tybalt. Just when it started to rain in the film, at that exact moment the weather decided to play it’s part in Secret Cinema and rain in real life! So you were kind of sat there in the crowd, crying about Mercutio dying whilst the rain washed over you in a depressive movie-moment manner. It was admittedly the perfect setting (despite all belongings and your fried chips getting drenched in the process). Honestly though, we were so happy it started raining at that moment because there was no hiding our waterfall tears. I’m not crying, it’s just been raining on my face!
There’s no denying Secret Cinema did our all-time favourite 90’s movie some serious justice. It was worth a standing ovation, for sure. Read all about Secret Cinema, their past worlds and their future worlds here.
Images: Secret Cinema FB