Secret Cinema has announced its latest immersive film experience will bring to life Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the classic Shakespearean love tragedy Romeo and Juliet, a summer festival in a secret outdoor location.
We had a moment with Matthew Bennett, the Creative Director, who brings these special events to life with creativity and flair…
What’s the hardest challenge you have to overcome when taking on a task like this?
Trying to keep it seemingly complex and captivating yet simple enough for 5000 people to just pick up the story and dive straight in. We build the shows over seven months so there is plenty of time for us to go down a rabbit warren or two that feels really natural and progressive but in fact, could confuse the hell out of an audience member. Our founder Fabien Riggall has taken the Secret Cinema model to such huge heights of narrative and mesmeric performance that it is really hard not to get carried away. We have such talented staff and technical suppliers that it feels anything is possible, so it is important to keep checking we are not planning something too weird or incomprehensible.
Without revealing too much, what can we expect from Secret Cinema presents Romeo + Juliet?
We are building a summer festival of love. It is an outdoor hyper-real world that celebrates love, loss, music, dance and romance. We have designed the show as a prequel, so three hours of episode and incident before we crash into Shakespeare’s opening scene of Brawl #3. So it is a truce event that is designed to heal the rift between the two warring families of Capulet and Montagues. It is a seedy and dark world of mafia influence and macabre power grabs. It’s a musical that brings to life all the best elements of the mid 90s music culture. And it is a place to lose yourself and find a new set of star cross’d possibilities.
Who’s your favourite character in Romeo + Juliet?
Maybe, Queen Mab, she is a symbol of freedom and also a dark meddler. She gives Romeo the sacred heart that makes him fall in love with Juliet then triggers all the tragedy. It’s possible to see her as this lovely spirit or this ferociously evil fairy who is responsible for all the death. Our own Queen Mab is going to be a huge surprise for everyone and she’s going to get up to all sorts of delicious interference.
What would you like to see on the opening day of Romeo + Juliet that would make you very happy?
The skies broad with sunshine and all 5000 people singing their hearts out in support of the truce that will end fair Verona’s bitter feud. I’d also love to see all of the audience making generous donations on the way into the show in support of our charity partner, MAC-UK, who work at grassroots level with communities to reduce inequalities, alienation and exclusion that are the root causes of youth violence.
All donations will fund youth-led projects that harness young people’s creative ideas and solutions to promote their sense of safety, potential and wellbeing to make London a more secure place for young people.
Are there any hidden surprises?
The whole of Secret Cinema is a hidden surprise. We defy anyone to predict what we have planned.
What is the one thing you would like people to remember about this edition of Secret Cinema?
That Shakespeare was the master of word and rhythm, and that London sits at the epicentre of music and melody. Between these two forces, we are building one of the greatest musical adventures anyone will ever have experienced.
If you had to choose any other film right now to reimage, what film would it be?
I’m really into Groundhog Day or Monsters Inc but very few people in the office are taking me seriously on those.
Just a couple of quick-fire fun questions. Choose only one answer! Romeo + Juliet or Moulin Rouge?
Romeo + Juliet, only for all the 90s g-funk, hot rods and fly lingo.
Baz Luhrmann or George Miller?
Baz all the way. His films make such great Secret Cinema adaption.
Musical or Sci-fi?
Steam Punk or Cosplay?
Gym or sports?
Sports, every time. Participation is so much more fun than killing oneself in sweaty isolation with band music on the headphones.
Blazer & Shirt or T-shirt & Jeans?
T-Shirt and Jeans.
Meat or Vegetables?
Veg, purely for reasons of wanting my future grandchildren to have an outdoor life.
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Images via Luke Dyson, Laura Little & Camilla Greenwell