Secret Cinema productions always brings to mind, for me, a world of lairy wonder, amusement around every corner, of heightened activity, colours and characters as bemused and curious as you are. Not unlike a Wes Anderson film, you might say. This goes some way to explain why I enjoyed a Saturday daytime in a warehouse so much. Sure, the silk ordained walls and red carpets, the animated purple-uniformed staff, the sunshine and the cocktails helped too but what made it a special was the absolute adventure the entire team of performers, designers and even the security create. From the moment you give up your electronic devices and make your way onto the tram up the mountain, to the moment you leave for the somewhat dull outside world.
The Grand Budapest Hotel as a film is a caper that takes you up and over mountains, in and out of prisons and sliding back down those mountains with climactic gangster drama and sweet storytelling sentiment. The Secret Cinema is as if it takes place in the ordinary days in the run up to Zero’s initial adventures with Gustave, taking you behind the closed hotel doors. I must say, that most of the joy from these shows come from the surprise, the intrigue and the randomness of an individual’s experience. I’m certainly no party pooper but, that being said, here’s a few things to look out for: If you see a lonesome gent gazing thoughtfully out of the window with a glass of wine, go keep him company; see those mysterious peepholes, look through them for a giggle; if a small lobby boy asks if he can shine your shoes, let him; if you’re offered a tour, take it, though perhaps not if you’re afraid of the dark; ask questions, these actors know their backstories and if you stump them, the improvisation will make your night.
The ticket prices to Secret Cinema’s most recent shows have been somewhat controversial and I almost agree – £50.00+ is a stretch for those that these immersive experiences usually draw. If you want money value though, you can certainly get it by taking in everything they have to offer, and, in this instance, there are three floors of offerings. Those who I spoke to after the film who had found a spot to sit and drink their cocktails didn’t find it quite as spectacular or amusing as the still grinning groups who explored for the whole 2 and half hours given before the film (or lecture as they called it) commenced, getting in on the action, helping those performers passing out from the altitude sickness and going through doors they perhaps shouldn’t. If you want mathematics, you get 4 and a half hours of entertainment for £50 – a West End show costs more for perhaps 2 hours of entertainment. Drink prices are about the same though, I’m afraid.
The action is all quite mysterious as The Grand Budapest Hotel is a new release and the majority of attendees are as much looking forward to seeing the flick as the adventure beforehand. I spent most of the film realising the niche touches that SC put into the production, something you normally realise beforehand when the film is a classic or well known such as with the Shawshank Redemption and Grease productions. This one seemed to add to more than reflect the film’s action, which is much more fitting to an Anderson film, where colour sometimes seems much more important than plot and, gosh, the colour in the film was absolutely extraordinary.
I left the screening wanting more, and slightly resenting the vibrancy deficient world of the City where grey is prominent and the staff are far less likely to present the fallen feather from your boa to you on a pillow.