Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ssh. Tell No one.

Oh no. Oh dear. I am falling into staying up-until-ridiculous-time habits. Like now for instance.
It's 2.29. AM.
But no, no, no, do not mistake me, friends. It is not the internet keeping me up to unholy hours. No. Although it really doesn't help. It is my cretin of a brain, which clearly just doesn't want me to sleep well.
I think it is all down to being on holiday (YAY). I am therefore doing essentially nothing with my brain all day - so it then wishes to carry on working at a low (but never-the-less disruptive) level ALL NIGHT LONG. 'ARGH' I think is the word.

Moving on from my body clock.

Do you like the title of this post? I like the title of this post. It is mysterious. As is the 'society' I am about to tell you of - so can you keep a secret? Can you keep a secret really well?
If someone ever asks you 'Have you heard of Secret Cinema?' be assured, you are about to enter a world which hitherto you probably thought didn't exist. Secret Cinema are an off-shoot company of Future Cinema, and you may have heard whisperings about them.
But only whisperings.
Every three months, they put on a film. And they do 'put it on', just like a production. If you have signed up for tickets you are told nothing. Nada. Zilch. All you get are little snippets of information via email, Facebook, Twitter - little clues that you can interpret in any way you wish. You get this and, of course, you get instructions for what to wear. Oh yes. Costume.
Audience participation doesn't cover half of it. Also, anyone who has been to the show must keep the details entirely secret for the length of the run... word must not get out!
So you arrive in your getup at a meeting point (most recently, this was Euston Station). There you are greeted by actors who are already inhabiting their roles; everyone, including you, has to be in character.
And then the location.
Oh the location.
Secret Cinema transform deserted buildings and areas across London to become the set of whichever film you are watching... the effect is phenomenal. My favourite so far has been their screening of the Graham Greene film 'The Third Man', starring Orson Welles. The picture below is of myself and my darling Belle (whom you may remember from this post) in our costume.

<--  And then the incredible, atmospheric location.

We felt like film extras! We thought we were in heaven!

I was lucky enough last year to be selected to join Great Britain's National Youth Theatre (another heaven moment) and it was through them this year that I spotted an opportunity to be a 'supporting artist' with Secret Cinema. Having been to a couple of events previously I thought I had a pretty good guess as to what that title meant... I was right.

So that's how, for a week, I became the luckiest person I knew. I hopped on the tube in leafy Essex (skipping the last lesson of school - oh, bite me, why don't you) and hopped off it, backpack on, in not so leafy Euston. Off I went (and I knew a short cut by the end of it, so how smug did I feel) and soon arrived at my arcane destination.
Cue Instagram photo. 

So you see a sign like that and know you've arrived at work. This is my kind of life.
This time (and I can reveal this to you without being afeard for my life, the 'run' ended two weeks ago) Secret Cinema screened 'Prometheus' the new Ridley Scott film, which is a prequel to 'Alien' - this is unusual for them, as they usually screen classics (p.s see if you can spot me in SC's short film!). The interior of the deserted, ex-NHS building was transformed into a spaceship - a spaceship which I had to learn to find my way around. Pretty fast.
My job as a 'supporting artist' was to basically do what the (paid) actors did, but I didn't have a specific role in the whole thing. Each night us supporters would get assigned to different places; Embarkation (bringing people from Euston), Decontamination (spraying them with water, FUN), or numerous places inside the ship like 'Mother' the core computer system (and light display). We were there to enhance mood, essentially, and boost numbers.
The complete control audience members surrender to you is startling, and quite a power kick. At no point can you lose character, so any real-world-speak has to be met with bafflement;
'So, can you tell me, what is this space used for normally?'
'Well this is the Mess Hall, recruit, so this is were we crew take time to relax and enjoy ourselves.'
'Oh, no, no, I mean in real life. Reality.'
'Pardon, recruit?'
'When we're not here. What is this place used for?'
'Well, this is the ship's maiden voyage, if that's what you mean. It usually stands empty.'
'Oh... ok. Thanks...'
And that went on with one of the real actors standing right by me. I was quite proud of myself.
Another great one was a member of the public (no ticket) at Euston Station. She'd clearly gleaned quite a lot of info from my colleagues and was gripping one of our flyers;
'So you aren't really going into space, are you?'
'Oh... sorry, madam? We are, our base is just around the corner...'
'Someone told me you're actors. That this isn't real.'
'Is this your way of telling me you don't believe is space travel, madam. Because I can assure you it is real, and a lot of time, money and effort has gone into the mission going up today. It is very real for us. We will be living it shortly.'
In the same way people take the initiative, and come up to you and play the game. On my last evening I was placed in the Infirmary, and had just finished doing some post-hypersleep checks on people - which they took very seriously, despite the fact I had made them up on the spot - and this occurred;
'Hello, doctor?'
'Good morning, recruit. How was hyper-sleep?'
'Ok thanks, but I'm a bit sore.'
'That's quite normal, recruit. Two years is a long time to be prone and completely still.'
'Doctor... I'm a bit worried.'
'Well, I woke up from hyper-sleep, and I was dusting myself down - you know, usual checks - when I came across... a rash.'
'A rash, recruit?'
'Where is it?'
'Well it's... down there.'
'Ah. Nothing to worry about, recruit, it's probably simply lack of movement, lack of... usage.'
'Something to do with the air circulation too, maybe?'
'Oh, undoubtedly.'
'So should I give the area some air?'
'Yes, recruit, that's an idea. Perhaps retire to your bunk first. Here I'll give you something for it too... take this with water, and come back to me if your... unfortunate eruption... persists. Got that, recruit?'
'Absolutely, Doctor. Thank you.'
And of she went with her date, grinning from ear to cheeky ear.
Best. Moment. Ever.

I had an amazing time, and really want to write a proper post on how Secret Cinema do things - but at a later date, when it's not the early hours of the morning. The people there were so welcoming, so friendly and so scarily, awe-inspiringly creative and involved. Their project seemed everything to them.
I shall never, ever forget my week there.
Or that woman's rash.

And so I leave you with a cheesy picture of me in my attractive boiler suit/space suit uniform!
p.s from now on you have to call me Esther Heeley, data scientist.


  1. AMAZING!! i love this :)


  2. LOVE it!!!!

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