Jazzercise, Demagogues and coke floats: C&TH’s Anastasia Bernhardt enters a new dimension at Secret Cinema’s latest Stranger Things-themed immersive production…
If I were to give you just one piece of advice about visiting Secret Cinema, it would be to leave your disbelief at the door. Where I would normally baulk at any whiff of audience interaction, if you’re not game, you’re not going to get anything out of it.
Fortunately, everyone else at the Stranger Things production was very much in character. To the point where it was sometimes impossible to distinguish between audience and actors – much to my embarrassment when I tapped on the shoulder of one punter to find a scoop for the Hawkins News Network.
I knew Stranger Things was big. But I hadn’t quite realised just how big until I arrived alongside 1,200 other superfans who love it enough to have stumped up for ticket fees and costumes, plus food and booze on the night. It’s easily a £120 night, depending on how wild you go on the coke floats (optionally spiked).
The last time I attended Secret Cinema was back when the cinema part was still secret, and I had no idea about the film I was about to watch or the surrounding context. Announcing what the production is before you buy the tickets has definitely changed the atmosphere – namely that everyone there is REALLY into it. But it has lost some of the magic of trying to work out what it’s all about.
What was as impressive now as it was then is the scale of it. Given that I’ve still never been able to walk through a haunted house with my eyes open, I felt genuinely anxious about coming face to face with the Demagogue.
A somewhat depressing sign of the times is that one of my favourite parts was having my phone locked away – and more importantly everyone else’s. I can’t remember the last time I went to a performance or gig and didn’t have someone’s phone filming away the whole show in my eyeline. It truly is magical to be somewhere where nobody is madly recording the experience. A rare chance to be in the moment.
Having just finished listening to Yale professor Dr Laurie Santos’ insightful podcast, The Happiness Lab, it turns out that interacting with strangers is a really important way to top up your happiness reserves. Your gut reaction to that idea – it’s going to be awkward, it’s unwanted, why would I need to talk to strangers when I have friends? – is wrong. And research shows that even introverts experience boosted happiness levels when they engage in everyday interactions. If you’re too shy to try this out on the tube, Secret Cinema is the perfect environment to experiment, and I greatly enjoyed having my tarot cards read, dancing to jazzercise and – even – holding hands around a table with my fellow Londoners.
One more word of advice – make sure you’re up to date on Netflix first. Having only gotten halfway through season three there were a lot of spoilers.
Adult tickets from £59. secretcinema.org