Secret Cinema Back to the Future, review: Interactive cinema experience finally arrives

4.00

Sometimes the immersive experience was so good that it blurred the line between fiction and reality

Secret Cinema finally opened one week after its organisers cancelled its first week of shows hours before the scheduled opening. Fabien Riggall, founder of the immersive film-experience company, cited a “myriad of reasons” for his decision to cancel the first week of the run. The backlash on social media was immense, especially as the show had sold 40,000 tickets in the first hour they had gone on sale.

The opening night was not without problems. Told to meet at an East London train station, punters had to walk for 10 minutes to the venue and then queue for half an hour as they waited to leave their phones and other modern gadgets at the door. They also had to queue for an hour to get food at the 1950s diner recreated at the venue, and the toilets were of Glastonbury standard.

But when Secret Cinema delivered, it was excellent. The set takes over much of the Olympic Park at which Hill Valley, California, circa 1955 has been recreated. Most of the locations were remarkable. The experience starts with a walk through Hill Valley Farm replete with sheep and chickens.

There is then a saunter along Riverside drive, where the houses of the Hill Valley residents had been recreated. These abodes were the most disappointing parts of the set. For one thing they were one-room bungalows and much is made in the film of George Mcfly spying on his future wife from a tree across the street. Better were the billboards, perfect for hiding a DeLorean. The Hill Valley Square featured more than 30 buildings including a high school. Clock tower, barbers, record shop and comic shop were excellent.

Secret Cinema starts as soon as a ticket is procured, with audience members being assigned characters and encouraged to dress and play the part. This was another bone of contention after the late cancellation of the original shows: audience members had already spent a lot of money on costumes. At the first night, there was an abundance of 1950s clothing and the odd man dressed as the wacky Dr Emmett Brown.

I was given the character of Raymond Wallace, a travel consultant, and ventured to my supposed place of work, Ask Mister Foster Travel Service. There I found a desk and a wall with postcards and a map of Europe. It didn’t feel very 1955 as it featured The Russian Federation, and the recently formed Balkan states. Yet these details were brilliantly turned on their head when an air hostess took us on an imaginary air trip and the differences between past and present were lampooned.

Video: One couple talk about what Secret Cinema meant to them

Sometimes the immersive experience was so good that it blurred the line between fiction and reality. I was treated to a beard trim by Paul des Reis of Genco Male Grooming, who revealed that his first customer that night didn’t realise he was actually going to get a real hair cut.

My favourite venue was Hill Valley High School, where the Enchantment Under the Sea dance took place. A band was playing music, and you saw the classroom where the teacher warned of the dangers of communism and the opposite sex. And then there was the visit by Mr Strickland, who managed to improvise lines from the film.

Read more: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Can secret cinema sell 80,000 Back to the Future tickets?
Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat