Secret Cinema has been on my radar for years, however due to unforeseen circumstances I had never had the opportunity to attend one of their mysterious events, that was until this weekend.
Excuse me whilst I pick my not-so-easily-awestruck chin off of the tarmac and try to explain what happened:
A couple of months back tickets for a Secret Cinema event went on sale, previous reviews of Secret Cinema have been almost evangelical, so we snapped them up and the anticipation began to build.
What was it to be, where was it to be?
There was talk of tribes and many people, given the increasingly blatant clues cottoned onto what the main attraction was going to be, you couldn’t help feeling sorry for those who had avoided all rumours and guessed we were to see Life of Brian.
I, not being on top form and not comfortable dressing as a Bedouin and walking through North London, went for what I thought would be a subtle jeans and jumper combo.
Boy did I look out of place.
Arriving at Alexandra Palace station, in their hundreds, was what must have looked like the largest nativity play in the world. En masse we set off across the railway bridge following rags of material tied to the fence.
And so it began.
To the uninitiated Secret Cinema is mind-blowing event, for attendees, and possibly one of the most confusing sights for bystanders, if you go by the semi-hysterical but smiling faces of the picnicking party at Alexandra Park who were suddenly surrounded by around 400 people dressed in “tribal” outfits being herded by mounted tribesmen:
Yes there were tribesmen on horses in the park, in full regalia, with rallying high pitched shreiks. Oh, and there were real goats and sheep being walked by peasants, and there were camels and donkeys and the very British army circa WW1 keeping the rabble in order.
We were at Alexandra Palace to see Lawrence of Arabia!
In we went, walking past the British Army offices where frightfully important business is being carried out in frightfully proper surroundings. Now and then they attempt to recruit a Brit they have seen in the crowd. Grabbing drinks at the bar we expresse our genuine chuffedness that they have gone to such effort; little do we know what lays behind the mirrored doorways.
As crazy as this may sound, there was a souk right there smack-bang in the middle of Alexandra Palace:
Its full of stalls of curiosities and clothing and food and an en suite mini-desert for those wishing to get the full arrgh-I-have-sand-in-my-socks experience.
By this point we are wondering can this get any better? As a day when apparently anything is possible, and in order to find out it seems prudent to follow the signs to The Palace.
And lo, there is a belly dancer, with a snake unintentionally, but quite determinedly caught up in her hair, dancing in front of a full band. Oh, and there, another three ladies dancing for our entertainment.
The final leg is to step through the huge doors to the main hall.
Initiate jaw drop sequence alpha.
About us hang the standards of all the tribes, there is drumming and the smell of food wafts from the chilli lamb and falafel stalls as a gentleman cycles about with an icecream cart, the thousands begin to enter the hall.
Its a long wait, the floor is cold and hard and few people make new friends, but the spectacle continues as the tribesmen meet and make proclamations, as belly dancers continue to jiggle across the hall.
Much is drunk and many pillows and inflatable objects are brought forward to be sat upon, and we wait.
We wait on the floor, we wait in huge queues for food, and still the drums bang and the tribesmen and army chaps wander amongst us:
Finally it starts.
Its loud. (A bit too loud, but the acoustics are a bit odd)
Its been an amazing day.
We leave at the intermission, tired, happy and enjoying the sight of London lit beneath us.
If you ever get the chance, go, go to a Secret Cinema and embrace the experience, go the whole hog and savour every moment. Its magical.
No it wasn’t perfect, but if the film had started sooner it would have come damn close.