‘All those moments will be lost, like tears in rain’
Firstly, let’s set one thing straight. Fabien Riggall – I admire you and what you have achieved so far; you have had an uncompromising vision for magical, bespoke, cinematic events and the two previous nights I spent at your pleasure were two of the most spectacular evenings of my life.
I have seen trapeze artists perform in dis-used cinemas; Fyfe Dangerfield and Chrome Hoof deliver powerful sets in unique settings; I have spoken with strippers, angels and genetic scientists; I have smoked and drunk in an 80s Berlin cabaret bar and I have danced till dawn with cyberpunks in the shadow of Canary Wharf.
But last night’s Secret Cinema was a disaster. The usual excitement was there as we watched the clues pour in during the weeks leading up to the showing and, decked out in pretty swish bedouin attire, we eventually made our way to Alexandra Palace for the main event.
The film turned out to be Laurence of Arabia. A classic. A classic that I love. But a 4-hour long classic. The difficulty was that, since the huge and deserved success of nights like Bugsy Malone and Blade Runner, Secret Cinema’s numbers have swelled due to fans such as myself passing on the good word (abandoning the ‘Tell no-one’ mantra) and interivews/videos popping up on all major news networks advertising these magical nights. This meant that David Lean’s epic was matched with an audience of epic proportions at Alexandra Palace; I believe over 5,000 people were there last night.
Unfortunately this audience were treated to Secret Cinema Lite – a thinned out, lazy and disheveled operation that focussed on getting bums on concrete (which was where we had to sit for 4 hours) rather than enhancing people’s experience of the film. It seems churlish to list out some of the evening’s faults, but then again I convinced a number of friends to fork out £30 with my list of Blade Runner‘s successes so here goes:
Alexandra Palace is a beautiful venue but nothing more – beyond transporting Camden Market a few miles north and walking a few camels through the place, where was the real bespoke treatment? All that really justified it as a choice of venue was clearly its size; it’s also damn difficult to get to, particularly when you are laden down with rugs and cushions as ordered.
A long film means people get restless and 2,000 restless people create a huge amount of noise in a venue that size. Coupled with this the acoustics were terrible (the plummy accents reverberating around the hall like one of my old school assemblies) and the film’s luminosity suffered from its distant projection. Endless queueing for over-priced drinks and food (‘I know you’ve queued for 40 minutes sir but we aren’t serving wine by the bottle’) and under-staffed bars and stalls combined with the fact that the organizers had to start such a long movie before most people had fought their way through the ‘market’ meant that hardly anyone had a chance to get into the story at all.
Unfortunately one of my abiding memories of the evening is ranting about the event to anyone who would listen in the queues we were all invariably stuck in at some stage. Most of these people were first timers, like my friend and crack fashion journalist Lucy, and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to them for probably setting them against Secret Cinema for good.
Because people should continue to embrace Secret Cinema and Secret Cinema itself should learn the lessons this night has taught them. My anger last night was circumstantial and this morning my chief feeling is frustration and disappointment because it just feels like Mr. Riggall over-reached himself. They tried something even bigger and ‘it didn’t fly’ as my friend concluded on the train home.
That same friend actually managed to have a little tête-à-tête with Mr. Riggall on his way out, and the fact that he was willing to take questions/complaints on the spot is admirable in itself. He was obviously frantic and worried about how the evening had gone and the fact that he has two more to go. In defending the show he asked my friend ‘Do you have any idea how difficult and costly it is to stage something like this?!’. I could hazard a guess and maybe I would be wrong or maybe I would be close but the answer is irrelvant. I have no doubt that ‘something like this’ would require a aircraft-hanger-sized venue and 101 shops paying 3-nights rent to prop up the hire costs but the point is that ‘something like this’ is not what Secret Cinema is about.
Think it over, get back to basics, cut the numbers to increase the excitement. Some people will go without and I, for one, am happy to miss out on the odd ticket if I can be sure that when I do get my hands on one Mr. Riggall, spectacular master-of-ceremonies as he is, will once again do Secret Cinema as proud as he has done for some years now.
One of the positives from last night was the fantastic weather we had and the spectacular view from the driveway around Alexandra Palace. However, the summer is coming to an end as I know all too well as one who keeps checking the forecast due to having an outdoor TV-shoot for a client on Tuesday/Wednesday that has no weather insurance.
So three tracks to close out the summer. The title track from Aeroplane’s long-awaited LP that drops tomorrow ‘We Can’t Fly’, their equally enjoyable remix of Breakbot’s ‘Baby I’m Yours’ and the delightful ‘Sailin’ from the fantastically fun debut record from Magic Kids (released far too late in the summer in my opinion but I guess summer goes on and on in Memphis).