For my birthday this year, I treated myself to a Future Cinema: Grease ticket. Although this was my first Future/Secret Cinema event, I had heard incredible things about it before from a friend who went to the Prometheus, Battle of Algiers and the Red Shoes shows.
The way these events go is you pay to attend in an undisclosed location and don’t know what you’re going to see but are given instructions for how to dress up and sometimes instructions for what to bring (without explanation). A few days before the event you are told the location and arrive for the big party. Secret and Future Cinema events both put on immersive, cinematic experiences – the major difference is with Future Cinema events, you know the movie the experience will be based on and around. Otherwise, they’re both still incredibly creative (and still full of surprises).
To create Rydell High, Future Cinema built an American high school in a sports field near Barnes (South London). Everyone was in full costume, but there were also actors spread throughout so there were T-birds, Pink Ladies, people in vague character and/or playing specific characters. Additionally, they set up a Rydell High school dance with a 50s-style band playing in a massive marquee, created a pop-up diner, had a Ferris Wheel, one of those spinning swing rides and bumper cars, and even converted a yellow Blue Bird school bus into a bar.
After a few hours of the festival atmosphere, the movie starts playing on a huge screen in the football field and everyone takes a seat on blankets, standing up to sing and dance along during the musical sections. They had actors below the screen re-enacting the scenes playing above them in a tiny spotlight.
For my actual birthday, I went out with friends to various bars and clubs. I had a few friends staying at mine, and one decided to stay out when the rest of us were ready to go home. He insisted he’d make his way back shortly… Although I only live about one mile from where we left him, he ended up going on an east Oxford odyssey, walking the most hilarious circuit and getting lost for more than three hours. He kept making unfortunate directional choices, and when he did finally find my house and see me through the window asleep on the couch, he knocked to wake me up. I woke up, unalarmed, but must have been completely out of it because I just smiled, waved him away and kept saying ‘no thanks’ and ‘not now.’ Eventually I let the poor guy in, but remember zip-zero of this.
The rest of the weekend was brunches, river picnicking, pub dinners, cat-sitting, and treating myself to a Lisa Curtis work of ART.