I have always wanted to go to an immersive event.
I love dressing up. I love role playing (keep your minds out of the gutter). And I love being a part of a story that is being told well.
As such, I have wanted to go to a Secret Cinema event for years. I first heard about them while I was researching immersive film events in preparation for a similar event I was helping to programme and produce. Their work has been of a consistently high standard and many of my friends have recommended their experiences from previous events.
So when Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things was announced, I knew I had to book my ticket. I am a huge Stranger Things fan and I was very curious to see how Secret Cinema would execute an event that was focused on a television series. Film is a much easier medium to translate into a four hour event purely because it is usually a singular, linear narrative that can therefore be easily translated into a theatrical event. For this event, Secret Cinema would have to translate three whole seasons’s worth (approximately twenty five hours) of content into a single evening’s long narrative.
A worthy challenge for a production company with such a sterling track record.
As any seasoned Secret Cinema goer knows, your experience begins well before the night of the event. As with their previous events, you are designated a character, and in this case your character is built around a particular genre of music which was popular in the late-70s to the mid-80s.
To keep this review as spoiler free as possible, I’ll give as few specific details as possible. The setting for the event is inspired by the 4th July fun fair in Stranger Things 3 with the collective motive of meeting for the Hawkins High School reunion of 1985. The story lines that unfold are heavily based upon the events of Stranger Things 3 and they are masterfully executed by a highly talented cast and crew.
The attention to detail on the sets and costume are second to none, and the performances given by the Secret Cinema cast of Stranger Things characters are uncanny to the original performances. Particular cast highlights for me were given by the actors who played Hopper, Joyce, Murray and Alexei – not only were their resemblances to the original actors spookily similar, but their precise character studies of David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Brett Gelman and Alec Utgoff’s performances were phenomenal.
There are so many references within the sets and performances to keep every fan happy, but even for those who aren’t too interested in the minor details, there is a lot on offer to keep you entertained. While you can participate in the event-original mystery story line, following clues across the numerous settings in the venue, you can just as equally enjoy dancing to some 80s tracks, drink some craft beer, or perform some era-appropriate karaoke.
While I only ate and drank a hot dog and root beer float, what I consumed was of a very high quality and reasonably priced (for London prices at any rate). There is plenty of different American style food stuffs available, including veggie options, and there are a selection of non-alcoholic soft drink options. Perhaps the most immersive food stuff on offer is the ice-cream from Scoops Ahoy and while I didn’t have any scoops on their own, the ice-cream in my float was of a high standard – they don’t skimp on your scoops!
Even if you come to the event at a later booking time, there is still a lot to experience, as the finale event is a 20-30 minute 360 degree sensory spectacular, combining live performance and clips from the original show. This performance in itself is worth the price of the ticket. There are plenty of West End shows that offer half the quality of the experience given by this performance for double the price.
If I were to have one criticism it would be that the event isn’t particularly friendly for people with hearing difficulties. If you want to participate in the mystery story line of the evening, make sure you are with someone who has the hearing of a mouse. Myself and the friend I went with both have minor hearing loss and it was extremely difficult to uncover certain clues as a result.
My advice for those who want to participate in the mystery story line would be to follow the clues as quickly as you can. There are time constraints as to how late you can move forward in your mystery solving whilst not missing key events taking place in the main performance areas.
This said, I had an absolutely amazing experience. It is well worth the money you spend on the tickets and given the quality of what you get, as well as how much content is packed into the evening, it is worth going more than once – which is what I am planning on doing.
Whether you’re a die-hard Stranger Things fan or not, Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things is a fantastic evening of 80s themed, science-fiction inspired, Americanophile brilliance!