On a Friday last July, i donned my Jedi gear and headed to London. I was off to see Empire Strikes Back, a film that I have seen numerous times. The difference this time is that I was going to watch it in an interactive environment. Secret Cinema were hosting a another one of their special events similar to Back to Future. This time, it would be Star Wars.
I bought my ticket and was asked to join RebelX. This was that start of the immersion. I was asked a number of questions and I was allocated a Jedi Character called Errol Tano. I was provided with information on what I should dress like and some useful items I should bring along. I have done LARP (Live Action Role Playing) in the past, so I was comfortable with this. I proceeded to buy/make my costume (I think I spent about £150 in total - mainly on some new boots, robe and a Jedi belt). I did not have a Lightsaber - but we were advised not to bring anything.
I took the train down to London in my normal clothes. I had booked a room for the night, so I got changed into my Jedi robes there, and ventured out on the Tube to get to Canada Water station. It was strange walking around in my robes in London, but apart from a couple of looks, nothing much happened. When I arrived at the station, it was easy to spot other people who were going, so i tagged along with them. It was a HOT summer day, and to enter the complex where the experience was happening, we had to enter a long dark tunnel. The heat was rising, and sweat started to pour from me.
There was a group behind me (all girls) and I commented on their costume. We started talking and i bumped into them a few times in the main hall. People were friendly and were more than happy to chat away. Everyone was in high spirits while waiting to get it. We then entered a 'passport' control area. We lined up and were taken into a space ship - where we would leave earth. This was amazingly done - there was a large screen in from of everyone which showed us what was happening. Then our first interaction with the Empire happened - an officer game in and arrested someone. The rest of us were allowed to leave. I was pulled to one side where i was given a quest - to see out a Jedi Trainer. Well, i needed no more encouragement.
Eventually i entered the main hall, and was totally blown away. They had build a Tattoine replica - huts, sand, bazaar, cantina - everything. I stood there staring, when i spotted a stormtrooper and R2D2. Wow. I ventured in and wandered the area, and spotted lots more characters from the films - C3PO, Luke, Obi Wan, Jawas, Boba Fett etc. I chatted to a few people, bought some food (very nice, if a little steep), had some drinks and immersed myself. I completed my quest i was given earlier and had spice to venture to the next section. I was not ready for that just yet, so i went into the Cantina to relax. The music was not from the film, but it was fun. I am glad i stayed, as the actors started to perform - essentially scenes from Star Wars.
I eventually handed in my spice and was led to another ship. This was going to take us to Alderaan. Naturally we didn't make it there as it was destroyed by the Death Star. We were promptly arrested and placed in a cell. Across the way, i saw Princess Leia - she was begging people if they had seen General Kenobi. Before we could interact, we were off again, making our way through the Death Star, avoiding storm troopers and teaming up with fellow members. Eventually we were at the bottom of some stairs, looking up. Leia, Vader and Tarkin were arguing. This was the start of the recreation of Star Wars within the Death Star. We had Han, Chewie chasing StormTroopers down the corridor, only to return quickly with a lot more chasing them. We had the duel with Vader and Obi Wan. They even has an X-Wing flying with Luke in to fire the torpedo into the exhaust port. Finally there was the ceremony. At this point, the crowd was fully immersed and enjoying it greatly.
Next it was time for the film. There were three screens, and i picked the furthest one away. During the film, the actors would act out certain scenes, while the film was still playing. This was the weakest point of the experience for me. In my opinion, there wasn't much interaction. This may have been due to having 3 screens thus needing 3 sets of actors. However, the scenes that were done was well executed.
The film finished and people left - happy. Some staying in the Cantina, I decided to head back to my room and change into something less Jedi. The trip back was fun. I bumped into a group of ladies that had obviously been out on the town. They knew I was a Jedi and we chatted away while on the Tube. It was fun and people had smiles on their faces. Finally I got back to my hotel and relaxed. It was a rush, one of the best cinema experiences I have ever had. I would certainly go to another Secret Cinema in the future if this was anything to go by.