30 September 2018

Secret Cinema's Romeo + Juliet

Last month, I had one of those dreamy summer days you know you'll be thinking of for years to come.  It was a busy, sunny Saturday which flew by in a blur, starting with brunch with a friend which ran late into the afternoon, followed by a quick dash home to rummage through my fancy dress box to cobble together a Secret Cinema outfit before heading to the secret location, piling on jewellery, painting on OTT makeup and applying fake tattoos in the back of an Uber.

Secret Cinema Romeo + Juliet, August 2018 - London culture & lifestyle blog

The film was Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet and the location was Gunnersbury Park.  The surrounding streets were packed with colourful crowds in Hawaiian shirts, gun holsters and angel wings, and red and black or blue and white, depending on each guest's assigned house.  We arrived armed with our tickets, police summons and aliases - I was Orphelia "Bomp", The Lucky Godmother of Stingers - in our blue and white Montague colours.  Phones were banned, so we don't have any photos other than these from the outside walls, scrawled with Shakespeare graffiti.  As you enter the gates and step inside the themed world of Verona Beach, there's less of an immersive theatre experience than previous Secret Cinema events, and instead more of a fun festival vibe inspired by the film with music, bars, food stands, fairground rides and lots of dancing.

Secret Cinema Romeo + Juliet, August 2018 - London culture & lifestyle blog

Now in its 11th year, this was Secret Cinema's biggest event yet, with 5,000 guests each night throughout August.  They brought so many details from the film to life with an army of characters in costume: a truce over here, a vicar reading a wedding sermon over there, brawling gangs, a gospel choir, theatrical storytellers demanding lines of poetry in exchange for tickets to the exclusive ball at the Capulet Mansion, inside which we saw neon lights, a sequinned drag show and a packed dancefloor.  We left after an hour of dancing to get some more drinks, check out the Montagues' lively, noisy garage with people dancing on top of muscle cars, went on the ferris wheel, grabbed some hot dogs and almost begrudgingly sat down to the film.  The only two things I didn't like about the event: there's no seating and we didn't know to bring blankets, so it was a slightly uncomfortable 2 hours 10 minute sat cross-legged on the dry grass, and, bizarrely, the cast acted out almost all of the scenes below the big open-air screen, which felt unnecessary.  The key scenes really worked: the perfectly-timed car driving through the crowd, the fights and gun scenes, and glowing blue crosses in the church - but the constant miming didn't add anything for me.  That aside, it was wicked.

Revisiting an iconic childhood film with a young Leo (sigh) and that 90s soundtrack: the nostalgia was palpable, and I loved it.  This was a gloriously hot, vintage summer we'll be reminiscing about in the same way they do summer 1976, and this was one of my favourite summer 2018 memories.  I adored Secret Cinema's Saturday Night Fever back in 2013 and this too is up there in my top ten nights out in London ever.  High praise indeed!  Bloody expensive, but bloody good fun - I cannot wait until the next one.

Secret Cinema Romeo + Juliet, August 2018 - London culture & lifestyle blog


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