We finished rewatching all three seasons of Stranger Things, got together our best approximation of the outfit for the 1980s subculture selected for us, suspended our disbelief and headed down to a secret London location for Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things. This is what we found there (with all necessary secrets unspoiled), including…
- What is Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things all about?
- Why did they pick Stranger Things for the new Secret Cinema world?
- Does it work?
- Do you need to get dressed up?
- Is the whole thing really secretive or can you talk about the BLANK that happens in the BLANK?
- And much, much more.
What is Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things?
The Latest Immersive World Created by Secret Cinema
Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things is the latest immersive experience cooked up by the fertile, ambitious minds of the culturally on-the-money Secret Cinema team. They’ve been putting on themed cinematic and televisual experiences since 2007, creating participatory worlds straight out of your favourite shows and movies. They give you a character before you arrive, you dress for the part and turn up to be an audience member with a difference. An audience member who’s part of the piece. An extra who’s allowed to talk as much as they like and drink and go to the toilet whenever they want. You're an extra with extra. An extra extra.
The interactive world they’ve created this time zaps you into the Stranger Things universe. You’re invited to the Hawkins High reunion (the fictional school attended by the show’s main characters), held on Independence Day. As returning students, each guest is given a character and assigned a clique in advance. You’re also given your mission for the evening, the sketchy details of a mystery it’s your job to solve over the course of the night.
As you, 80s-attired and hopefully with a couple of buddies by your side, seek to put together the pieces of your puzzle, you meet all the characters from the show, some involved with your mystery, some not, some propelling the overarching narrative of the evening towards the night’s show-stopping—and secret—finale. Secret Cinema evenings traditionally end with a screening of the film in question. With three seasons of Stranger Things, this obviously wasn’t possible. The workaround they’ve come up with is inspired. And secret.
Matthew Pearson for The London Pass
Plenty of Sideshows to Explore
There are plenty of concession stands selling USA fair food staples, a few bars and loads of mini-games, group challenges and 80s hits blaring out. So even if you don’t want to get too involved in the storytelling side of the evening, there are plenty narrative-free parts of Hawkins to explore.
But everyone’s there together at the end. Character big and small. The entire audience/Hawkins reunion goers. All shepherded into the same place for the moment when things get turned….upside down.
Why Stranger Things?
The Perfect World To Get Wrapped Up In
Set in a Spielbergian vision of 80s small town America, the Netflix series is all about normal folk getting wrapped up in sci-fi mysteries; kids facing down authority with only idealism and friendship on their side, and heaps and heaps of nostalgia. It’s perfect thematic fodder for Secret Cinema, who are all about nostalgia and allowing adults to act like kids again, exploring fictional worlds they feel they know every inch of.
As well as the series’ main themes providing a fitting home, the world of Stranger Things offers an ideal setting for an immersive experience like Secret Cinema. It’s stylised and stylish, precise yet cartoonish, rich in real world details and underlying mystery. There’s a wholesome sheen to the 1980s small-town USA depicted that is ready to flip into all out horror at any moment. It’s in that tension that Secret Cinema pitches the evening. The all-smiles idealism and bunting-hung patriotism of the American fair is pretty sinister to begin with. So too is the maxed out consumerism of the 1980s playground mall. All it needs is a little push. The illusion can’t hold. Put simply, Secret Cinema gets two worlds for the price of one from Stranger Things.
Matthew Pearson for The London Pass
A Modern Show That's All About Looking Back, Just Like Secret Cinema
Some might suggest that Stranger Things isn’t established or well-worn enough to deserve/need/benefit from the Secret Cinema experience. They may well be right. Compared with what has come before it, Stranger Things can’t claim to have anywhere near as much longevity. Arguably it doesn’t have the same cultural clout as the worlds Secret Cinema has explored before.
But Stranger Things itself is a nostalgic undertaking, it is inspired by the films, games, clothes and music of the 80s, and references its inspirations throughout. It provides nostalgia a step removed by pastiching, recreating that which it loves. Just as Secret Cinema does. And as the company’s first attempt at building a world based on a cultural title that is still an ongoing concern, it works well. Certainly, out of all the TV shows out there right now, Stranger Things seems the best placed to benefit from the Secret Cinema treatment, catering to a class of watcher and audience member who want to get wrapped up in the fictional world they love and dream of exploring it from top to bottom.
How Was Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things?
It Was Pretty BLANK. Especially the BLANK.
We don’t want to give too much away, which has made writing this whole piece a risky business. However…
Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things is an OTT production. OTT Productions is possibly a better, truer name for the company than Secret Cinema. They’d clearly prefer to do too much than get accused of falling short. From the moment you get your character and realise you’re going to have to go out and buy a Hawaiian shirt and dress as close to 80s pomp George Michael as you dare, it’s big and involving and wants to wrap you up in its world, to make you a part of the set for your own enjoyment and everyone else’s. If you want to turn up speaking hammy lines of dialogue in a wavering attempt at an American accept, you will be encouraged.
It looks the absolute business, there’s no doubt about it. Fans of the show will appreciate detail after detail that has been lovingly recreated, brought to life, there to be explored. People who’ve never seen the show will be impressed by the look and feel of the 80s America setting. And the BLANK. The BLANK that you’re BLANK BLANK looks absolutely BLANK. BLANK!
Smart Storytelling and a Chance to See the Stars Up Close
The storytelling is smart and filled with easter eggs, referencing the series itself while also moving into uncharted territory. The idea of separating the audience into different groups, with each group getting a different mystery to explore is clever. Some people seemed genuinely confused by the whole thing though. With so many stories taking place across the same scene, they seemed to get caught midway between the task assigned to them and wanting simply to explore. They eventually found themselves following three narratives at the same time and promptly gave up. But it’s not hard to follow if you take your time and keep general exploration and story-solving separate from one another.
The seemingly spontaneous scenes that break out between cast and audience members are fun. It’s pretty thrilling having Will tell you he’s found a clue, follow me
, then deliberately lose you in a sea of Hawkins residents. But when it gets busier and the crowd around each character is 5-10 people deep…you don’t feel like you’re in Hawkins anymore. You feel like you’re in London. Get there early and go character-spotting as soon as you arrive. Maybe that’s the best advice.
It’s not about the cocktails, of course. But they taste like they’ve been mixed by the kids from the show. It’s not about the cocktails, of course. But 10 quid is a lot of money to spend on some fruity tasting fizz made from all the sodas in Dustin’s fridge.
The finale is the best thing about the evening, as finales should be. As soon as the BLANK goes BLANK and the BLANK does a BLANK and you think it’s BLANK, but it’s actually BLANK…it’s pretty damn BLANK.
Matthew Pearson for The London Pass
What Shows Have Secret Cinema Put on Before? What's next?
Previous to Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things, London audiences have been able to explore the sci-fi worlds of Blade Runner, Alien and Star Wars, and the post-apocalyptic zombie hellscape of 28 Days Later. There’ve been some cheery, dancey, singy spectacles too, including Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and the Di Caprio-starring Romeo + Juliet. Next up, in Summer 2020, is Dirty Dancing.
Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things runs until March 1st 2020. It’s held at a secret London location. Tickets start around the £40 mark, but it’s very dynamically priced throughout the week and according to availability. There are Saturday matinee performances which are open to those 15 and up, but otherwise it’s an 18+ event. For more details and to book, head HERE. For tickets to the next Secret Cinema event, Secret Cinema Presents Dirty Dancing, head HERE.
It'd arguably have been a good idea to stay dry at Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things. Would have saved a wedge or two. If you're looking to keep it dry, or at least damp, this January, have a read of this
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