Grab your flashiest Hawaiian shirt and prepare your finest Shakespearean insults because Secret Cinema is back – and this time, we’ve been invited to a magical festival at fair Verona Beach.
With over 65,000 people expected to attend throughout the August run (working out at a whopping 5,000 a night), Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet is the largest, most ambitious production the ultimate immersive cinema experience has ever created. But yet, it also feels like it’s the finest, most accomplished event to date too.
Breaking away from the constraints of old, abandoned warehouses in East London, Secret Cinema flourishes as it steps out into the summer sunshine and embraces the outdoors. Anybody who went to Back to The Future in 2014 will get a wonderfully nostalgic sense of deja vu as you step through the gates.
If you’ve experienced Secret Cinema before you’ll know the score. Once you’ve bought your tickets you’ll be instructed to register online. Here, you’ll find out the location and discover your identity. Will you be a classy Capulet, or a rough and ready Montague? In our case, we were a Capulet Underboss named Tommaso ‘The Handshaker’.
Secret Cinema has created a multi-layered carnival, complete with fairground rides, live bands, dance competitions, DJs and Gospel choirs, all there to throw you head-first into Baz Luhrmann’s iconic nineties movie. As you wander around the superbly-detailed, colourful, Hawaiian shirt-clad festival, you’ll find it impossible not to fall into character, and glare suspiciously at shifty rival family members up to no good. As a Capulet we were right at home in the family mansion but immediately felt like we were going to get caught when crossing over to the Montague garage.
At some previous Secret Cinema events you might have left feeling as if you missed out on something, or didn’t interacted with enough characters. That’s not the case with Romeo + Juliet. After ten years of putting on these grandiose events, Secret Cinema now runs like a finely-tuned instrument, and is organised impeccably. You’ll be hard-pushed not to bump into at least one of the actors, and they all take it very seriously so be sure to tell them what house you belong to.
At one point we found ourselves sharing a dance with Juliet (Amelia Bennett) after we were introduced as a ‘suitor’ by her mother, Gloria (Natalie Williams). And later, we got chatting to Ted Montague (Alex Francis) in his office about Fulgencio Capulet’s (Steve Devereaux) potential mayoral ambitions. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy getting too involved, you can go and hang at one of the many bars dotted around instead and simply take it all in.
With just one huge screen and unreserved seating, we advise not leaving it too late to nab your spot. But there are plenty of things happening on the main stage before the film begins, so you’re not going to get bored.
As is expected with Secret Cinema now, key scenes from Romeo + Juliet are performed live around you as they’re happening on screen. We can say with confidence that these are the best live performances we’ve seen at any of its events. The incredibly talented cast do a superb job of capturing so many key scenes from the film, and one in particular will completely blow you away.
After the triumphant Moulin Rouge last year and now with Romeo + Juliet, it appears Secret Cinema really comes into its own when putting on a Baz Luhrmann movie. So, dig out your angel wings and prepare for the biggest party of the summer.
Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet runs until August 25th. Tickets start from £49 and are available here. A VIP package is available including dedicated hosts, enhanced interactivity, reserved screening area with cushioned seats, drink and meal tokens.