Reviewer – Mark Clegg
Since 2007 Secret Cinema had garnered an enviable reputation with its unique combination of movie screenings and immersive interactive elements – all shrouded in a cloud of mystery.
This event is by far the company’s biggest and most ambitious project – to recreate the town of Hill Valley, California from the classic 1985 movie Back to the Future and not only host an authentic American county fair circa 1955, but also allow guests to attend the climactic Enchantment Under the Sea Dance while, all the time interacting with the characters from the film.
The problems that plagued this event are well documented already. Reported concerns from the local council regarding health and safety lead to the preview and the first four performances being completely cancelled – the first few at very short notice. This generated some very bad publicity for Secret Cinema when the news went global, and a very angry backlash from an online community that they had carefully built up with an involved pre-show marketing campaign. They were really going to need to deliver the goods otherwise it could easily spell the end for Secret Cinema.
Well opening night eventually arrived a week late, and deliver they did – in spades. Don’t worry – spoilers will be avoided.
Just watching the film with a large and appreciative crowd would be fun, but playing along with the surrounding environment also has a lot to offer. Attending in appropriate 1955 costume is recommended, as is playing your allotted character (although neither actions are mandatory).
Secret Cinema have lavished a great deal of time and effort to recreate the 1955 version of the town of Hill Valley to make an immersive experience. Admittedly Disneyland it ain’t, but there is enough detail to allow visitors to wander and discover a multitude of detail and in-jokes as well as feel that they are actually in a small Californian town. The cast of 80 actors seamlessly interact with their environment and the guests. This reviewer had a nice conversation with George McFly just prior to him being publicly humiliated by Biff, and had a brief chat with Lorraine regarding an unfortunate incident that had occurred to her recently. They are all superb, both during the pre-show interactions and once the film gets underway.
Certain scenes from the movie are recreated as they play out on the giant screen. All of these are masterful and in several cases damned spectacular. Iconic moments occur before your very eyes and the effect is simply spellbinding. The movie is a five-star classic in its own right and to say that Secret Cinema’s enhancements make it better is high praise indeed.
There are some slight criticisms. Administration is clearly not Secret Cinema’s strong point and some slight disorganisation in handling the crowds is annoying, as are the lack of enough food and drink vendors. Also the rather abrupt ending of the event comes as a surprise and it does feel that the crowd is at least 20% too big. Also, please note that this is predominantly an outdoor event and precautions to withstand any inclement weather are a must. However admin niggles aside, the actual show is fantastic, unique and demands to be seen. Get tickets while there’s still time.
Secret Cinema’s own future seems to be safe now. Their only problem is how to top this…