It’s an icy cold night and we’re outside a giant warehouse having our phones switched off and sealed into opaque grey bags. This is, after all, a ‘Tell No One’ event — with the location being revealed by an old school red dotted line map and the film a well kept secret. Fitting then that once we enter the expansive warehouse space we find ourselves in a Cold War era military base complete with a mess bar, diplomats area, communications room and top secret departments. We were assigned our characters the evening before via an online portal revealing our rank, proposed attire and props. Everything has been accounted for, even the walk from the classified station to the almost terrifyingly realistic base, has a hush-hush unnerving Cold War feel to it.
This is, we realise early on, a slightly more serious incarnation of Secret Cinema than it’s Back To The Future or Star Wars counterparts. For a couple of hours we are left to our own devices in the space which is bustling with army officials engaging you in dialogue about ‘top secret’ affairs. We get set a mission by a stage dancer, we crack some code, wear party hats and salute the president on his birthday… No attention to detail has been spared, and despite our initial hesitation about play acting, we fall into character pretty quickly. The experience is designed to engage further than its entertainment function, with the setting not only reflecting the film but playing with the Zeitgeist and encouraging participants to assume social responsibility. Certainly more than you’ll get from a trip to your local Odeon.
You get out what you put in, naturally, and we got stuck in with multiple tasks involving finding, following, exposing or passing messages to communists. At the sound of a siren and flashing lights, we are ushered, mid task, in a state of “EMERGENCY!” to the cinema show space – where everything comes together. Six screens surround a central stage, two majors screening the film (a secret, obv) and four with atmosphere creating images. On the centre stage actors play in unison with the film, bringing the events to life right in front of our eyes and a whole new level of realism added to the unfolding plot. As a burst of confetti signals the end of the night, the hundreds of participants decked out in military gear walk the icy path back to the station with a lot more to think about than when they first entered. It may be lacking in popcorn and pick and mix, but Secret Cinema: Tell No One is an experience no cinema chain will ever give you.