I haven’t written much about what I’ve been up to lately I know. It’s all book reviews or nothing. I haven’t had much energy to spare when it comes to this place. Mostly work is a big suck fest right now, and it’s not something I can talk about really. I do write posts in my head, but sadly none of them make it online. Still, you’re not missing much. I went to Glasgow for a conference, I went to a wedding…did I mention the wedding? I dunno. Anyway, last night I did something new and slightly interesting, so I am taking the time to write about it.
I went to Secret Cinema. This was my first time going though I’d heard good things about it. Basically you buy a ticket without knowing what film you’re going to see. Then leading up to it you get cryptic emails telling you what to wear and what to bring, and giving clues about the film. It’s all part of the ‘Immersive Experience,’ until you finally get the ‘coordinates’ and time and know where to go. The last film was Blade Runner, and I had heard it was an amazing experience. I would also have loved to have known about this when it was Bugsy Malone because that looked like a fantastic night, and I love that film. The clues for this one were all about the desert and tribes and joining forces and it soon became clear that the film would be Lawrence of Arabia. Up until the very last second I was still hoping this wouldn’t be the case, that by being so obvious about it the organisers were trying to throw us off, and instead we’d have something else to watch. Something better and far more appropriate to the setting. But I’ll get to that bit later.
I dressed as a Bedouin, in a kind of half arsed fashion, and we made our way to Alexandra Palace and the meeting point. We joined with a whole bunch of other people and made our way along the path to the main event, getting funny looks from passersby. Along the path there were actors dressed up, asking to barter things, or yelling at you, or holding on to animals. I was impressed by the camels and the people on horseback. Then we moved into the hall where it had been dressed as a souk, with lots of stalls selling things and more actors, and a little oasis with real sand and a well. I thought they did a great job with the space and it did all add to the experience. However, it was crowded. Very crowded. You couldn’t stand and look at anything or really take it all in. I’ve heard some numbers mentioned, with some saying there were up to 3000 people there last night. I don’t know if it was that many, but there were a lot. It also wasn’t very well organised, in that no one seemed to be in charge, or ushering people through to the event. So we walked through the souk once, and went back out again thinking the screen would be somewhere else, only to find it was inside. So we had to queue again, and fight our way through the crowds again, until we finally saw a woman motioning people in. Then it was through to a grand hall and the screen. Great.
And it was fine, for us. Max had brought his bean bag chair and, though I laughed at him for it, I think we were the most comfortable people there. It’s a hard, concrete floor, and yes, they did say to bring rugs and cushions, but it’s still not the most ideal place to sit for such a long film.
Ah yes, the film. Lawrence of Arabia. I don’t know whose idea that was, but they should have been shouted down. I’ll admit that the lead up to it was pretty good, and they put on a decent show, but an almost four hour film is not the right thing for this kind of event. There was no one telling people it was starting, so they were still wandering through the souk and enjoying themselves while we were in the main hall watching an actor dressed as Lawrence come in on a camel and reenact a scene from the film (I assume). But alas, Lawrence’s microphone wasn’t working, and no one stepped in to try and fix it, so we could only hear half of what was going on. So people missed that and the beginning of the film, which you kind of need to watch carefully to follow what’s happening. I was mostly trying to nod off, because I knew how long it was and I was incredibly bored and sleep seemed like a good idea. I have never seen the film, and never had much interest in seeing it. I know it’s a classic and means a lot in cinematic history, but it’s not my cup of tea. But, if I were to watch it, I would not choose to do so at this kind of thing, where people are coming in and out, and are obviously uncomfortable and not enjoying themselves. It killed the mood, there was no kind of atmosphere at all, and apparently those near the back couldn’t hear the film properly either. Lots of people left before intermission, myself included, and I think more left before the end. A lot of this was to do with the running time. The film didn’t start until gone 8pm, and people couldn’t stay even if they wanted to as they had to catch the last tubes home. This is a shame as apparently at other events things have continued after the film has finished, but here there just wasn’t time, unless you lived nearby.
Another gripe to do with the number of people was the queues. There were simply not enough food stalls to go around for the number of people attending. One of the emails had said not to bring food or drink, as they would be provided. I can’t remember the exact wording but it made it sound as if food would be put on for us, free. Which, given the price of the ticket (almost 30 quid) seemed reasonable to me. Not the case, and so you had queues lasting over an hour for a kebab that cost over a fiver, and you missed the film. Just…really bad planning, and I can’t stand badly organised things.
From what I can gather the ones in the past had been so good because the number of people attending were much lower. There are a lot of unhappy people who went to last night’s expecting a similar experience to others, and they feel ripped off. I can’t blame them, as it could have been so good. Instead it feels a bit like they are cashing in on the good word of mouth they have achieved, and are taking people for whatever they can get. I hope this isn’t the case, and this was just a one off. Hopefully they will learn from the complaints and get back on form, and never think of screening an epic again. I’d probably go to another one, but hope they make a better film choice. And have less people.