Secret Cinema is an interactive production where the audience is once again invited to take part in a cinematic experience. The night ends with a screening of the film, in this case, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which is coupled with actors playing out some scenes in front of the screen.
This was definitely to be one of the highlights of the trip. We had received the email detailing our characters and occupation over a month ago, and last night was finally the night. After much preparation and organisation, we were dressed and equipped for our fight against the Empire as the Rebel Alliance.
Nothing could have prepared us for the experience we were about to have.
Ruan, Chris and I left the house to meet up with Annie at the train station. I was surprised that we weren’t getting strange glances or stares. After all, I was garbed in a long brown cloak with a scarf, tunic and boots as I was a member of the Creative Council. Ruan was in an awesome Galactic Explorers outfit even kitted with a plait, so he looked like he walked right off the set. Chris was in a grey jumpsuit and oversized goggles but loaded with toy guns, water guns, bags of gold coins and a phial of sand. We must have made a strange crowd.
Finding the location was all part of the fun. We spotted a few other Rebels at the London Bridge station all wondering about, looking for clues. We tentatively approached a security guard who had a scarf – the signature sign of the Secret Cinema – stuffed in his pocket. He nodded firmly to us, asking if we knew the Rebel’s rendezvous spot. We shook our heads, and he pointed us in a direction:
“It’s on the other side of that lake. Remember Rebels, keep your faces covered at all times.”
We put our scarves up over our faces and were off.
We met up with the rest of our group at the entrance to the airport where we were to be smuggled onto a plane as cargo. The plan was to get us from the Earth Mission Core onto Alderaan. Once aboard and crammed inside a shipping crate, it was safe to remove the scarves from our faces and breathe again. Now, unfortunately, the ship could only get us halfway to our destination. Our captain informed us we would be offloaded and issued with identification on the planet of Tatooine.
Once we disembarked, we stepped onto the sandy terrain of this desert planet, where hot wind and dust rose to greet us. Chris and Annie, now known as Idris and Lora, immediately started trading the valuables we brought for spice – a necessary item to progress to Phase Two of the production and leave Tatooine. Chris turned out to be an excellent trader and kept getting the Jawas to give him free crystals.
I was just blown away by the realism! If you have seen Star Wars, then I can say that this did it justice.
We were careful to source information and ensure safe passage off Tatooine by getting each member of out party a crystal. It was tough not to get distracted by the stores, the food, the characters, C3P0 and R2D2 incessantly roaming and around and Chewie’s powerful vocals. The Canteen was an impressive sight! It was modelled after an Arabic gathering hall and even played Arabic music – but it fitted so well with the Tuskens! We even saw Han Solo and Chewbacca conduct business in a booth. Scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope were playing out all around us.
It was incredible that everyone was in character. There are no cellphones allowed, so it only emphasised the authenticity of this sci-fi world.
After our adventures on Tatooine, we disembarked to a safe planet, but we got caught on the Death Star, where a few more missions took place, and we saw Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrifice his life, and Luke destroys the Death Star. We were literally in the middle of the action.
The night ended with a massive screening of Episode V. We grab the popcorn and watch the familiar introduction begin.
The crowd sang along with the famous tune. Along the sides and in front of the screen snippets of the film were acted out. We witnessed Han and Princess Leia kiss, Vader’s plotting and the big line:
“I am your father,” heavy breathing.
It was incredible at how shocked the crowd was at the greatest reveal in cinema history! Even though everyone who attended knew the story backwards, they still feigned shock and horror upon hearing those words.
It was a phenomenal experience, conducted with so much realism and effort that for those five hours we forgot about planet earth and our earthly worries. We were entirely committed to another galaxy. It would be fantastic to bring something like this to South Africa and offer that otherworldly feel. My congratulations to the organisers, set managers and builders, producers and the actors for creating such a realistic atmosphere that allowed all of us to escape into a world of our favourite fantasy.