Baz Luhrmann’s super-stylised 1996 film Romeo + Juliet is such a good fit for Secret Cinema, I’m surprised it’s taken them a decade to get around to it. The distinctive visual design, memorable set pieces and ostentatious costumes all lend themselves perfectly to the company’s interactive “live screening” concept, which sees dozens of actors build upon the fantasy worlds created in cinema classics.
Set in an undisclosed location, Romeo + Juliet is being touted as the biggest Secret Cinema production yet, venturing far from the Canning Town warehouse that hosted sold-out productions of Star Wars and Blade Runner. The open-air event is also a departure from the usual format, laid out like a music festival, with various “stages” playing host to acts as diverse as a gospel choir and a drag show.
There are some incredible design flourishes, with the large-scale set dressing reminiscent of the immersive worlds created at the Glastonbury festival. There are also more food stalls then ever, although if you leave it too late, you’ll still end up queuing for half an hour for your £10 gourmet chicken burger or bowl of Mexican rice.
The sheer scale of the event means the imagined scenes taking place before the film can be harder to spot than usual, and at times it all feels a little thinly spread, without quite enough going on to fill the formidable space. But when the curtain raises, the fireworks (literally) begin.
Luhrmann’s singular interpretation of Shakespeare’s play segues seamlessly from the screen, with characters spilling into the seating area, continuing their heartfelt exchanges and vicious brawls.
There’s also something special about seeing Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet with people who are just unashamedly into it. Over 20 years since it was first released, Luhrmann’s film absolutely stands up, and this is a fantastic way to reacquaint yourself with it.