Some of you may have read the article in the Telegraph “My battle to be stylish as a disabled man” by Alex Taylor. He kindly included us in his piece and now he’s sent this review of a Secret Cinema experience. Something I’ve wanted to do but have never been convinced they cater for people with disabilities. So if you’re ready to let ‘The Force Be With you ‘ read on ………..
Secret Cinema – Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back
It is not every day that I find myself aboard the Death Star being led to jail by an army of stormtroopers, but this is the kind of moment Secret Cinema’s Empire Strikes Back event brings to life.
Held at a secret location in London, ticket holders become part of a Rebel X alliance against the dark side, with great care taken to instil a renegade mind-set. Upon ticket confirmation, an exclusive interactive matrix style website pokes questions at you that go on to determine your position in the alliance. You must then dress accordingly, with Rebel X supply stores hidden around the capital (there’s an online shop for those further afield).
Travel to the event is very much wheelchair accessible. Without giving anything away, let’s just say it’s easily navigable via the Jubilee Line.
Once at the destination, I found myself at the mercy of 300 plus costumed actors, all rigidly in character. One discreetly informs me that she will be at my service today – my comrade on the mission. In reality this translates to helping those with disabilities seamlessly navigate the accessible route, which deviates through backstage hallways leading to goods lifts. Fortunately, these never break the sense of immersion, being brief, infrequent and frankly offering a welcome chance to reflect on the surreal nature of it all. Some wheelchair users have suggested this comrade scheme was intrusive and annoying, but I did not find that – it is vital to keeping the journey as seamless as possible.
This is not to say the event is without access problems. There are a few. I could not use the normal entrance point due to steps. This felt a shame, because as the first introduction, it helps set the tone of infiltration and rebellion.
When I did enter, I was immediately forced to forget my earthly identity. Time no longer existed. My phone and all other equipment sealed in a space pouch for safe keeping, to be given back on my return.
I was made to feel part of the action thanks to the way the actors did not blink an eye at the wheelchair, instead taking it in their stride. This attitude was helpful in minimising the other minor access issues. For instance, when I was unable to hide in a cargo hold with the rest of my crew, due again to a sizeable step (that could be easily fixed with a small, innocuous ramp), the rebel leaders obstructed the view of passing officials and stormtroopers. The move is typical of the depth of thought and awareness that has gone into the event – invaluable for ensuring the wheelchair does not lessen the experience for anyone.
At times it felt that to make up for the minor access problems, extra effort was made to give wheelchair users side missions essential to the plot of the day. This only strengthened the experience for me, as a stormtrooper told me to keep in line and stop speeding!
This year’s secret cinema is not cheap, at £75, but not a penny has been wasted on creating this truly unique experience. May the force be with you.
If you want to go it’s on until 27th Sept and contact them here for tickets.