Review: The Secret Cinema Club comes to Croydon



The interactive experience is proving a big hit.

By Emma Birkett

The first rule of the secret cinema club is that you don’t talk about the secret cinema club; the second rule of the secret cinema club is you don’t talk about the secret cinema club.

And to be honest, even trying to find the right words to describe the secret cinema club is fairly difficult.

The best comparison I can make would be to compare it to a kind of murder mystery evening, where you are the participants in some elaborate bewildering plot.

The basic premise of the evening is this: there is a film, which you are unaware of, in a location, which you are unaware of, and it will be brought to life in ways which, yes you guessed it, you will be unaware of.

Croydon Council had, alas, already duly blabbed about hosting this event on their website, so that part was no longer a mystery, but pretty much everything else was.

There was even an embargo on the press reporting the event until after the final show on Sunday 9th June. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the last bastion of secrecy in our ever-connected informed digital world.

What became clear is that once you had brought a ticket, the role playing adventure had begun. The first thing you needed to accept was the premise that you were now a new employee in the fictitious G.O.O.D Company.

I will begin by saying that turning up to the event began the descent into madness. There were people in 50’s style dress, office work wear, uniforms and even some nuns (no, really) all milling about or queuing to get in.

Previous to arrival you had to fill out a survey which had ‘assigned’ you to a department within G.O.O.D. There were no tickets issued as such, you had to give your name and the name of your department head to the actors dressed in G.O.O.D employee uniforms.

As everyone, whether you were in a group or not, had to fill out one of these surveys, everyone had a different department, entrance number and directions depending on the answers given.

My friend, who had assumed he was accompanying me, was firmly but politely told that their records indicated that he was assigned to a different department and could he kindly make his way over to his designated queue.

Going through security in the building meant also leaving any food or drink behind (which could be collected on departure) and going with other fellow new employees for ‘induction’ specific to your department.

And this is where the fun really began. All I am willing to say about my employee induction, was it involved chanting, paper airplanes and plastic surgery colour charts.

I met up with my friend about 30 minutes later, having never had such a fun or bizarre experience in all my life.

Using actors, props and the location environment the secret cinema club is essentially the ultimate adult role playing adventure. The film, which you do eventually end up seeing (in one form or another) ends up being merely incidental to the evening.

The evening consisted of completing various tasks, meeting department heads and taking on challenges and generally exploring all 13 floors of this all-encompassing experience.

There was a ‘staff canteen’, several bars, a restaurant and even talking vending machines. The attention to detail is truly astounding.  When we did eventually work out the identity of the film – everything became startlingly clear and you amaze at the sheer scale of the undertaking.

Suddenly our a trip to the plush leather and velvet ‘executive’ floor 13 made sense, the financial department where the entire floor and everything in it was covered in newspaper made sense, the meeting with the information retrieval department where we had to use typewriters to write down the ‘interrogation’ of terror suspects made sense.

These were all scenes, characters and sets from the film ‘Brazil’, a dystopian fantasy written by one of the Monty Python stars about a chillingly bureaucratic government ministry which rules the country with an iron fist and paperwork.

The climax of the evening was when they started projecting the film on to the side of the building’s courtyard. This was interspersed with real-life action portrayals of some of the scenes in the film.

For instance there is a part when the anti-government ‘terrorists’ try to rescue the protagonist by abseiling into the torture chamber where the hero is being held.

Cue actual people starting to abseil down the side of building while a platform rises up from the courtyard depicting the torture chamber where two actors are playing the part of the film characters.

Giant wind turbines propel smoke and paper up and around the courtyard up to us gazing down on the action from one of the floors.

Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it. The whole evening was a dip into the fantastic. You have to be willing to give yourself up to the weirdness though – you can’t be a stick-in-the-mud in this show.

At £40 a ticket with fairly expensive drink prices inside, the Secret Cinema Club won’t be to everyone’s taste. The unique element in this evening is the unexpected and the unknown. Dislike either of these or take yourself too seriously then this might not be the right club for you.

Photo courtesy of Chuckumentary with thanks.

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