Oh what a night! After a manure truckload full of bad press, the delayed opening night of Secret Cinema: Back to the Future finally took place yesterday (July 31st) and it proved to be an amazing experience. All of the delays, problems and negativity were put to one side and Secret Cinema were allowed to let their product do the talking. And it was a truly magnificent affair.
For starters, let me say that we will not be reviewing every aspect of this event, nor disclose its location. You can easily find that out elsewhere (if you really wanted) but if you are attending one of these shows, I urge you not to seek out too much information beforehand. This experience, like all of Secret Cinema’s remit, relies on the element of surprise and wonder. In this day and age that’s mission impossible but if you allow yourselves to be taken on this journey, you really won’t be disappointed at all.
Now, such an endeavour isn’t without big risk and clearly Secret Cinema has succumbed to a few crippling problems along the way. Their reputation has taken a huge knock as a result of their cancelled shows but this production of Back to the Future is exactly what they needed to get back on track. It really is stunning on every level. I was as sceptical as the rest, especially after the rumoured reports of council approval failure and unfinished sets put them firmly in the firing line across social media last week. But there is no denying that what they have created here is an event which we have never witnessed before in this country.
Record crowds flocked through the gates into this Back to the Future land of wonder. I’d say at least 80% of attendees were dressed up in 1950’s garb and it made the whole experience all the more fun. BTTF has a style of its own and fans really embraced this element of the show. You can still go to the Secret Cinema pop-up shop in Hackney to pick up an outfit or accessories before your given show. So with everyone in the spirit, it made the whole event feel like a carnival, or to be more apt, like a Hill Valley Fair.
Implementing a cast of hundreds, SC: BTTF captures the essence of 50’s Americana at every opportunity. The actors’ commitment to their roles deserves special applause because each and every one of them delivers an immersive experience. They interact with everyone (never out of character) and help to cultivate the nostalgic atmosphere of the event.
There are a few eyebrow raisers in general but nothing that derails the experience. The shops are a tad too small and could have benefited from being a bit bigger. Like with all popular events, there are certain attractions that demand your patience too. Lou’s Diner is one of them. Be prepared to wait a very long time. The size of the diner is good but the crowds soon amass and you’ll be waiting a long time for cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes and the like. Turn up as early as you can to make the most of the attractions.
Speaking of which, the attention to detail on the attractions is great. From interiors of famous character houses to the classic 1950s cars that drive around Hill Valley, this is a perfectly recreated town. Stalwarts of the square include a cinema, frock shop, comic and music store, the post office and the telephone exchange. There’s a fairground and even the Texaco petrol station too. Hill Valley High School is recreated well and it leads to the Enchantment Under The Sea Dancehall at the back. Again, this can get very busy but it’s a lot of fun with Marvin Berry & the Starlighters playing memorable hits like Earth Angel and Johnny B Goode, with a well stocked bar to sink a few down before the night really begins.
There are lots of amazing surprises throughout the evening so we won’t spoil any for you. Rest assured, it takes the event to a whole new level and makes for a captivating experience that you’ll absolutely love. Again, Hill Valley Square is utilised very well here with everyone getting a good view (even though it can get a little tight so make sure you grab a spot on the green as soon as possible).
If all of this wasn’t enough, there’s the film itself. On the eve of its 30th anniversary, Back to the Future still remains the greatest movie of all time. It utterly captivates from start to finish with the crowds really getting involved with key scenes from the movie. Lines are spoken aloud in unison, people boo and hiss when Biff comes onscreen and cheer when Marty and Doc appear. It’s what Secret Cinema thrives on and they’ve given fans of BTTF the perfect platform to enjoy their favourite movie on.
The ban on mobile phones and cameras is pointless though. Whilst I appreciate their desire to keep things under wraps, it still didn’t deter some people from sneaking their own in. There are so many great photographic opportunities across the event but anyone playing by the rules don’t get to take these great memories home and that’s a shame. There are designated photographers on set but only in certain locations and it’s just not the same. We are disappointed to not have our own personal photographic memories from this amazing show and I’m sure others will feel the same way in the coming weeks.
Secret Cinema: Back to the Future is a mesmerizing affair full of wonderful excitement, spectacle and scale. It’s a BTTF fan-fantasy with its world realised in wondrous working detail. I’m sure the rumoured American tour of this production will be even more polished and comprehensive (they just know how to do big scale entertainment better than anyone else). For now, Secret Cinema: Back to the Future becomes the must see event of summer 2014. It has defied the odds and crafted a completely captivating and crowd-pleasing affair that guarantees you an unforgettable night.