Spoiler alert: Do not read if you are going to this event over the next few weeks.
Secret Cinema is an immersive cinema experience. They take well known, or newly released movies, and recreate the worlds in which they were filmed. The attention to detail is always phenomenal. From the second you arrive, you are completely submerged in the world of your chosen movie. During the course of the evening you will be able to join in with, and witness scenes from the film before settling down to watch the movie itself. However, unlike a normal film screening, the actors continue to perform various scenes and involve the audience throughout. I can not emphasise enough how fun it all is. I’ve been to two events in the past and loved every minute of it. If you visit their website, you can see a series of videos of previous events.
As soon as you have been to one you can’t help but discuss which movies you would love to see done next, and Moulin Rouge has always been very high on my list. We signed up to be creatures of the underworld (cheapest tickets) and began to receive information about our characters and what would be expected of us.
My name was Marie Corelli and I was a journalist. Here is my character description:
A troubled woman, battling with doubts she is facing in her faith, Marie is finding that she can no longer seek solace in the teachings of the Bible, or ask God for guidance. Plagued by haunting visions, Marie is worried that the devil is trying to contact her. Others think this is absolute nonsense. Her eccentricity has become well-known. She will sail on the river in a gondola, complete with a gondolier that she has had brought over from Venice. Her drama infects her work, and she has faced criticism from the literary elite for her overly melodramatic writing. Can Marie pull herself together, or is she truly possessed by some dark evil?
You can embrace your character as much or as little as you want. Costumes were compulsory which I think was a great idea. Seeing someone dressed in modern day gear would have really spoilt the look of the whole thing. There is also usually a task for you to complete to help. I was told to bring an example of one of my articles:
It reads: Grand Opening of Patisserie Royale by Marie Corelli
The dark, voluptuous clouds gathered, as the alluring scent of baguette and pastry wafted through the air. The crowd of twelve future patrons, including a questionable dog, gazed at the intricate draping covering the windows. All of a sudden, the clouds parted and a brilliant shaft of sunlight fell upon the magnificent front door of coloured glass. Just then, a disease ridden pigeon plummeted into our midst on its final descent. As it lay on the ground, stiff and missing a foot, not even the questionable dog wanted to be near it. An evil omen on this day of celebration. Madame Roulade opened the doors none-the-less, and we piled in to admire her fancies. The beautiful, fresh baguettes will be as stale as the pigeon outside by the morning. Make sure you purchase them today.
Rob was also a journalist, my Mum was a retired Russian model and my Dad was an ex-dancer now choreographer addicted to absinthe. You are not allowed to take photos at the events,which is a shame in some ways but definitely helps you to become more immersed in the experience. However, we managed to get a few shots before we left:
Even on the night, we still didn’t know where we were supposed to be going. We just had to arrive at the bus stop in Canning Town. Thankfully we knew we were in the right place the second we spotted a large man in hot pants, a corset and stiletto heeled boots. We followed him until we met security dressed as gendarmes who ushered us next to a wall covered in French posters. Above us stood a large electricity pylon lit up in French colours, resembling a mini Eiffel Tower. Once through security we walked through large black curtains into what I presume was a converted warehouse. However, there was no mistaking that we had left London far behind and were now in Montmartre and the world of the Moulin Rouge.
I don’t know how well you know the movie, but even the priest shouting warnings and the prostitutes smirking on the street corner were there. Mist filled the air and the alleyways and building were recreated for guests to explore. An incredibly well matched cast walked among us and occasionally engaged us in conversation or acted out scenes from the film. Sometimes a bell would ring and then cast members would climb ladders and we would all join in with the songs from the movie.
At one point we were given the task of moving, and hanging, the backdrop ready to begin the rehearsal of, The Hills are Alive With the Sound of Music. On another occasion my Dad was whisked away to dance a waltz with Nini Legs in the Air while several people handed my Mum money to strike a pose (fake francs we were given as we entered unfortunately).
Rob and I found a still life drawing area (next to the bar):
There was also a French cafe with a stage filled with musicians, market stalls, a French fair with food stalls and even an absinthe bar (not that it was real absinthe). We were having so much fun that we completely forgot about the movie itself.
All of a sudden, curtains were pulled back to reveal a replica of the Moulin Rouge. Everything was draped in red. There were changing rooms at the side for the dancers, a large stage beneath the cinema screen, a decadent pod to resemble the inside of the elephant and a balcony for Christian’s apartment. People who had paid for more expensive tickets were sat all around the balconies while all us Creatures filled onto the dance floor. We were right in the middle of all the action. The scene where Satine comes down on a trapeze and sings Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend, happened directly over our heads and we were in the circle with all the dancers waving our arms. I was very excited to be picked to dance with one of the dancers to the Rhythm of the Night; Rob patted Christian on the back as he marched to the stage to win back Satine; and we were all involved in singing the Elephant Love Medley.
Once the film finished, a DJ arrived and more dancing continued. The atmosphere was incredible. The camaraderie was fabulous. My mum even found herself teaching people how ‘to stroke the soap’ in the French bathrooms. I had a lovely conversation with a bearded lady as I helped a dancer zip up her sequinned leotard.
I could have stayed there forever. I can’t wait to hear about what they do next. I urge you all to get saving for whenever they decide to do one of your favourite films. Next time, we should all go.