Until 27 September, deep in the heart of the London Docklands, for a few hours a night (OK for a price), you can wander around a Mos Eisley street market, see inside the dining room of a moisture farm, have a drink at the bar of a Tatooine cantina and round off the evening with a screening of "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" (yes, it is the Special Edition - that is all you can get now, let's not go there - but it IS the-least-played-around-with-one of Eps IV - VI).
Secret Cinema is a company who specialize in presenting films in unusual places. "THE SHINING" in a graveyard, anyone? They started to upscale their presentations into events with interactive screenings a few years ago, and I strongly suggest you see their short videos on YouTube; the "BLADE RUNNER" presentation looked fantastic. Last year, they "did" "BACK TO THE FUTURE", down at the London 2012 Olympic Park and although the team experienced issues in the first week, they recovered and was a success.
I had heard of Secret Cinema, and I knew someone who attended "BTTF", and enjoyed it, but I had never been to one. When it was announced that this year, they were somewhat upping the ante and presenting "ESB", I knew it was time to go.
If you want to go with the interactive element of the presentation, it starts once you've bought your ticket and you are invited register for your character and then you are encouraged to dress up and find a pop-up shop in London's East End where you can buy trading items, full costumes, etc. At the shop, the interaction continues with questions of who are you aligned with and were you followed from the staff who are dressed as pilots, Creative Council, Galactic Explorers and Mercenaries and call you "rebel". Given that this kind of thing could be seen as a "licence to print money", I was rather impressed that the company decided to keep items at pretty reasonable costs, believe me, I've seen much cheaper-looking items for stupid money at cons and signing events ...
So what of the event itself. Firstly, it has to be said that the more you go with it; the more you are likely to get out of it. No one makes you interact with any of the characters they have. I have fond memories of the "Alien War" experience that was in central London during the 90s and the "briefing" we received once we were through the check points very much reminded me of that. Walking out into "Mos Eisley", was when I decided that the cost of the ticket had been worth it and seeing the film with dear friends was almost going to be incidental. The main plus factor was that before you "board your transport", you are asked to put your mobile phones into sealed bags - the plus side is that we all concentrate on the experience without distraction, the minus side is no photos (damn!).
Everywhere I looked, I could see people having a wonderful time and the Cantina was brilliant. One of the best moments was when Chewie entered and everyone just stopped and looked; a number of ladies were vying for Solo's attention and it was fabulous to see the characters ensure that children were not being ignored in any of the evening's interactions. As the evening continued, I was talking to whoever was close by and I was so surprised by how many people said they were not "SW" fans but had gone to other Secret Cinema events and enjoyed them. In fact, I met a young lady who readily admitted that she had never seen a "SW" film until that evening, yes, I danced to Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes performing their only hit, and I am unashamed with that admission!
There have been much online criticism of the hike in the ticket price from last year and issues surrounding payment of actors for the company's events, but, although mindful of all of that, I loved the results and, short of walking onto the set of "ROGUE ONE" (currently shooting in London), it is a "STAR WARS" experience that I will have fond memories of for years to come.
With you, Rebel X