Secret Cinema Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back review

SciFiNow went to Secret Cinema’s showing of The Empire Strikes Back. Here’s how we got on…

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Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell

When writing about an event as auspiciously covert as Secret Cinema, knowing what does and what doesn’t constitute a spoiler is a tricky proposition. Misstep, and you’re liable to get marched off to a holding cell in the detention block by a posse of perennially glowering stormtroopers – at least that’s what’s going through my head at the moment.

With this in mind, I’ll stick to saying what I know for certain that the creative minds of Secret Cinema’s latest event – themed around The Empire Strikes Back – certainly will mind me saying: it is utterly, utterly excellent.

Exactly how brilliant it is, however, will depend entirely on your level of devotion to the saga that George Lucas built, or your willingness to participate in and ingratiate yourself into this world.

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Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell

The more devoted the fan boy or girl you are, the more likely you are to appreciate the hundreds of little winks and nods to the wider universe of the films (there’s even a Force Awakens reference!).

For those unfamiliar with the Secret Cinema experience (like this writer was until experiencing it first hand), it basically goes as follows: having dressed up as something thematically linked to the film in question (you don’t strictly speaking if you don’t want to, but we advise against it; those going casual will stick out like a sore thumb), you travel through several areas from the film universe, where you can choose to interact with actors playing characters from the film.

Alternatively, you can just mill around, taking in the spot-on production values and enjoying the selection of food, drinks and entertainment on show. It’s entirely up to you.

In the case of Secret Cinema’s Empire Strikes Back experience, the journey is fast and frenetic. Without giving much away, the nature of the game (at least initially) is urgency and espionage, which those participating in the optional missions you are given will be experiencing first hand.

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Photo credit: Will Cooper

Such is the involving nature of the narrative of the production (which sees you travel through several locations from A New Hope – one impressively rendered, one not so much) that when you finally settle down to watch Irvin Kershner’s classic, you almost feel as if you haven’t had enough time. Still, so much attention to detail is there that even during the film itself, there’s always something going on. Just keep an eye out.

There are a few obvious quibbles though. Firstly, at £75, the price is hefty to say the least. Where the money’s gone is obvious given the scale of the production values, but it’s a lot to ask, especially when the (admittedly tasty) food and drink inside the venue isn’t cheap.

Coupled with sorting out outfits before and travel to the venue, it’s an expensive day out. It’s worth it for fans, but those not as au fait with the subject matter won’t get as much out of it.

Also, participating in the experience is strongly recommended. If the organisers tell you to dress a certain way, do it. For instance, when they tell you to bring appropriate footwear, you would be advised to listen. Don’t, as somebody who was there at the same time as this writer did, wear flip-flops.

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Photo credit: Paul Cochrane

If someone (ie, this writer) clumsily – albeit entirely unintentionally – treads on your toe during an impromptu dance number during which this writer was forced to demonstrate his club-footed ‘moves’, it will hurt a lot, and no amount of glaring at the apologetic culprit will disguise the fact that you could have prevented this scenario by reading and adhering to the guidelines. Saying that, if you’re reading this, I really am sorry. Hope your toe’s better now.

Seasoned veterans of Secret Cinema have highlighted minor quibbles here and there. This being our first time, we’re not best placed to agree or disagree with them. We can only judge the experience on its own merits, and it’s safe to say that there’s absolutely nothing else like this.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, try to rustle up the credits from somewhere, and go. That’s our only advice. Now if you excuse me, I’m off into hiding before more stormtroopers arrive…

Secret Cinema Presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is on now until 27 September 2015. You can buy tickets at www.secretcinema.org/tickets.