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Secret Cinema’s The Empire Strikes Back: Tips and spoiler free walkthrough

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Photo by Olivia Weetch

Photo by Olivia Weetch

Secret Cinema’s latest immersive event for cinephiles is a presentation of The Empire Strikes Back. It is certainly their largest, longest running, most complicated, and most importantly MOST FUN event thus far.

If you are unfamiliar with Secret Cinema, it breaks down like this. You buy your tickets to a performance of the film, but the location is secret. Closer to the time the whereabouts will be revealed to you, but in the meantime, covert electronic communications give you hints to expect and a guide to what to wear on the night.

You do, of course, get to watch the film, but the preamble is the experience that you’re paying for. Sets are intricate, studio grade dens of detail and love. The actors that inhabit them make you feel like you are IN the film and can help or hinder you on your quests before the film starts.You can booze and eat as much as you like during this time too, before being shepherded in to a screening area to watch the movie itself. During the film, the screening is augmented with a variety of subtle lighting effects to full on reenactments of the on screen action right there in and amongst the audience.

Photo by Paul Cochrane

Photo by Paul Cochrane

Secret Cinema’s latest event, The Empire Strikes Back, is a fantastic night out. It is the closest you can get to living Star Wars, and is a fan’s dream trip. For the first time that galaxy far, far away is on your doorstep and, even though a Jedi doesn’t crave adventure and excitement, Secret Cinema delivers a Death Star’s worth.

Part of the fun of the event is the anticipation built up by the cryptic communiques, and the prep work you put in before the event pays off in a big way too. There are many surprises and delights to be discovered and had that I would not dream of spoiling for you, Imperial level embargo or not.

So instead of a tip toe-y review, I thought a guide on how to get the most out of the experience might be of more use. So here are my ten tips on how to prepare BEFORE you get there, and a walkthrough to help you experience as much as possible on the night.

 

  1. Don’t fret about the location.

Yes, it’s awkward not knowing where you’re going, but they’re not going to stitch you up. It’s in London and accessible via a station with regular services on two tube lines.

 

  1. Create your character.

I can’t stress how much extra fun it is going in character. You will be sent to a website that helps you generate your character’s name and type for the event, and you should DEFINITELY do this.

 

  1. Learn your “lines”.

Learn your character’s name and type off by heart. Being able to rattle it off straight away on the night when interacting with the show’s talent makes for some epic encounters that help instantly suck you into their carefully curated Star Wars world.

 

  1. Print your ID.

After character creation you will get an ID badge with your characters details on. Print this out and have it with you on the night. And print it out at a size that would fit in a travel card wallet.

 

  1. Sort your outfit.

The different character classes all dress very differently. Use the online guide they point you to to see what yours is and dress accordingly. This isn’t just dressing up for the sake of it. Wearing the right stuff makes the actors at the event able to know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing and treat you accordingly.

 

  1. Get your props together.

You will also be told to bring certain items with you for unspecified until the night purposes. Make sure to take these as again it will make your adventure even more fun. And take physical versions too – the app on your phone, or a picture on your tablet aren’t going to cut it.

 

  1. Don’t take anything to sit on.

At previous events, a cushion or blanket to sit on was needed for the screening – but you’ll have a seat for this one so you’re all good.

 

  1. Get there early.

No, the film doesn’t start until 8:30pm but remember you’re not paying to see a film – you’re paying to have an incredible filmic experience – that’s why it’s £75, not £7.50. Doors are at 5:30pm, and the earlier you get there the more time you have to explore. Which brings me to…

There is an awful lot to see and do. I had two adventures just looking for the toilet. If you keep your eyes peeled and your mind receptive there’s no end to the exciting exploits you’ll take part in. Even if you’re just trying to find somewhere for a wee.

 

  1. Pro Tip

On that subject, the signage for the loo/smoking area IS confusing. If you need to relieve your bladder or get a nicotine fix, stay on the ground floor and head all the way to the back of the event space through both rooms.

Photo by Paul Cochrane

Photo by Paul Cochrane

WALK THROUGH

Now you’re actually there. Here is a super vague spoiler free guide to where to go and when.

On arrival keep an eye out for people in orange vests. There are loads of them and they will point you in the right direction.

Have your tickets with the QR codes on out and ready.

Don’t try and sneak any booze, food or drink in. Your bag will be searched, it will be taken away.

Don’t bother taking a camera. You won’t be allowed to use it.

Your phone will be sealed in a bag and given back to you. Turn it off, put it away and forget about it. Again, you won’t be allowed to use it.

The entrance to the event involves some covert running about – do as asked and keep your face covered.

Photo by Mike Massaro

Photo by Mike Massaro

Once inside the sort of holding area, have a nice look around and make your own fun. If you hang around near the front the actors will give you something to do, but if you fancy a sneaky beer there’s a cooler near the back where you can get a sly can of Bud.

Upon leaving this area, be quick on your feet to get a seat for a cool little intro.

When you reach your destination, and the main area, do a circuit first to see what you can find and weigh up your food and drink choices. This main space will start to be cleared at about 8pm, so you have until then to achieve whatever task/s your character has and to eat something. I’d say don’t do what I did – get your task/s done FIRST and then kick back for a munch after.

Stay on the ground floor – you’ll have plenty of time to see what’s at the top of the stairs in a bit – BUT DO GO OUT BACK. Trust me, that area is amazing and your 1977 age self will high five you for it. And, remember, if you go RIGHT to the back, you can pop out for that wee or fag we discussed earlier.

At 8pm-ish something will happen that will trigger you moving out of the main area and toward the screening space upstairs.

Once upstairs first head right for any refreshments or a dance, then get back out into the main void. I’m not saying what happens, but if possible the best place to see it is from up on the balcony, about a third of the way from the back. You’re welcome.

For the movie itself there are plenty of seats and they all have just as good a view of the screen, BUT, the sweet spot is a few rows from the front in the middle.

During the film keep your wits about you. Things will happen below, above and along the sides of the screen. If you see the lighting change and nothings happening ahead of you, it’s either up high in the rear left or right, or about to walk past you down either aisle.

Aftermath. You don’t have to clear out straight away if you want to party a little after. A DJ will strike up as soon as the film’s over and there’ll be some more of those white coolers of Bud floating around, plus there’s the upstairs bar that’ll be on your left upon exiting the screening room.

This event is a special thing that if you love Star Wars you will thoroughly enjoy, and if you’re going then I hope this stuff helps you have a great night like I did.

SECRET CINEMA Presents STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK runs now until 27thSeptember 2015 www.secretcinema.org/tickets

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