Never was there a story of more woe… but Secret Cinema presents Romeo + Juliet is a pretty fun night anyway.
Update: Secret Cinema’s second night was cancelled at the last minute due to ‘poor weather’ (the sun-hardened ground apparently formed the day’s rainfall into a kind of Shakespearean paddling pool) – follow them on social for updates.
While Secret Cinema’s producers can put together a mean dystopia – Blade Runner and 28 Days Later, for example – I’ve always preferred to be immersed in a friendlier alternate reality. (My social anxiety doesn’t get along well in a futuristic police state.) I’m happy to say the summer vibes at Romeo + Juliet fall safely into the latter category, not dissimilar to the outfit’s previous open-air festivals based on Back to the Future and Grease.
Taking place in a secret, outdoor location in west London, Secret Cinema have transformed a park into a playful ‘Verona Beach for Peace’ extravaganza, hoping Montague and Capulet alike will bury the hatchet. Needless to say, some auld enmities nevertheless persist…
The interior is a strictly phone-free zone; a little annoying on the one hand (I like taking photos of things!) but admittedly it was sort-of nice to just… look at things with my eyes? Plus, when Events Occur, there isn’t the depressing spectacle of 100s of people whipping their cameraphones out. (What I’m saying is, I’d like everyone else to be banned from taking photos, except for me.)
Luckily there’s ample opportunity to document your costume via selfie at the gate:
You can check out the costume competition with the #SecretCinema hashtag on Instagram!
Inside, you’ll find plenty of themed entertainment: a Capulet Mansion hosting live drag performances, roving action from famous characters, and even some secret areas to track down. There are a smattering of stages across the site hosting quirky performances (Mariachi covers of 90s alt-rock, for example) and I also enjoyed the endless cod Shakespearean scrawled on every available surface – the designers have obviously had a whale of a time bringing embracing the aesthetic richness of Baz Luhrmann’s creation.
When the movie itself gets underway (about 9-ish, if you’re wondering!) the open-air screening is accompanied, as usual, by all manner of screen-adjacent activity with acted performances, lighting effects and other things I can’t tell you about, all designed to bring the film’s world to life.
When you buy your tickets you’ll have to choose a very specific, ten-minute-long specific arrival slot (like 6.40 or 6.50 or whatever) but rest assured, nothing bad seems to happen if you miss it, although I’m sure the organisers would appreciate if you didn’t! But gates do close at 7.30pm, and as the whole endeavour is on the pricey side, it makes sense to get there as early as possible and make the most of the full, five-hour party.
Hosting 5,000 people a night, Verona Beach stands ready to host any Hawaiian-shirted Londoner this August. Remaining dates with tickets available include Sunday, August 12, Sunday, August 19, and Thu-Sat, August 23-25. Tickets are from £73 – VIP tickets are now sold out. Find out more on their website. (Motion picture is © 1996 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.)