Secret Cinema Blade Runner - Final Cut review: Long live the king of immersive cinema

Cinema has always been celebrated as a peak of escapism - Secret Cinema lives only to take that idea and run with it

Clarisse Loughrey
Thursday 05 April 2018 12:35 BST
Luke Dyson/ Warner Bros./ Alcon Entertainment
Luke Dyson/ Warner Bros./ Alcon Entertainment

We’ve seen 10 years of Secret Cinema fly by. From humble beginnings, it’s grown into nothing short of a phenomenon, a titan in the London entertainment scene: the giddiest of immersive highs, the outrage at ticket prices, the veil of almost cult-like participation.

With over 520,000 people having attended past events, it’s a presence that’s destined to loom large for many years to come. And, really, could anything at this point stop its rule (and that of its founder Fabien Riggall)?

Certainly, if its first event of 2018 - titled (breathlessly) in full, “Secret Cinema presents Blade Runner - The Final Cut: A Secret Live Experience” - is anything to go by, its sovereignty remains strong.

Scream it from the (rain-soaked) rooftops, possibly while releasing a dove into the air: long live the king of immersive cinema.

With a long-established aim to blend fiction and reality, Secret Cinema has found a perfect bedfellow of sorts in Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic. A self-contained world marked by neon, giant screens, cramped alleyways, and noodle bar-after noodle bar; combined with a constant sense of deception and secrecy. The smell of acid rain seems always to permeate the air.

As you step into Secret Cinema’s immaculately recreated streets, only with your own identity handed to you (a member of the LAPD investigating illegal animal trading, in my case), the effect is both immediately bewildering and enchanting.

Luke Dyson/ Warner Bros./ Alcon Entertainment​

Who here do you trust? Who’s on your side, and who’s perhaps not quite so human? Underneath the superficial layer of perfection, of clipboard-wielding receptionists and glitzy entertainers, there’s always something darker bubbling away in the shadows - much like Scott’s original film.

It’s this ever-present air of mystery that lends itself immediately to Secret Cinema’s ethos. A large-scale, fully sensory experience that’s entirely transportive in its effect. And the result is astonishingly successful: what’s so delightfully odd about the Secret Cinema’s created universe here is how willing its participants swiftly become.

Any awkwardness associated with the British sensibility is thrown out of the window: this is a night to shed your skin and live as someone entirely new, if only for a few tantalising hours.

Though it’s fairly easy to spot the main players here - here’s Deckard, over there is Rachael - beyond that point, it all meshes into one. On more than one occasion, I genuinely struggled to figure out whether the stranger I’d just interrogated was an actor or an ultra-dedicated audience member who was, in fact, just shuffling towards the bar to buy another round of drinks before I’d jumped them. I hope, for my own part, I planted the same seeds of confusion in a few other attendees.

Blade Runner - trailer

A quick, almost obligatory note on ticket prices here. A hot topic of conversation for many a Secret Cinema past, it’s noteworthy that the price points have been reduced from the eye-watering heights of past outings: tickets now range between £45 - £115.

Admittedly, it’s a hard thing to dictate to others what the price cap on a certain experience will be, but when Secret Cinema is still sitting within the bounds of many West End productions, a ticket that opens the gates to you both watching a classic film (with some extra live flair courtesy of the in-house actors) and getting to be a part of said film, it’s hard to argue that such a dream-come-true experience for any dedicated cinephile won’t inevitably be worth it.

Cinema has always been celebrated as a peak of escapism - Secret Cinema lives only to take that idea and run with it, as far as it can possibly go. One word of warning, though: prepare yourself for the crushing disappointment of leaving its doors and returning to the real world once more. Guess the LAPD won’t be expecting me bright and early the next morning.

Tickets are available here.

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