As I emerged from Bethnal Green station on Friday there was a buzz in the air. Groups of people stood around dressed in vintage suits, looking a little puzzled about which direction they should be walking in. It was time to experience the latest offering from the Future Cinema team.
This time round, the meeting place was Bethnal Green Library, and as usual from the moment you stepped inside you were transported to a different world where you never quite know what is going to be waiting around the corner. After a quick briefing from our attorney, we were taken through to face a venom spitting judge who passed down some quite severe sentences. There was still a bit of giggling going on as people compared rap sheets, but it soon became apparent that we were now criminals, and the guards were not about to put up with any funny business from a bunch of cons. We were then escorted outside to some beautiful vintage buses.
For me, this was a real stroke of genius. The location change totally threw my bearings out and the fact I had no idea where I was when we finally stopped made for a much more immersive experience. Once off the bus we were marched into the a hall and greeted my some of the prison guards. When I say greeted, what I mean was shouted at and told to strip to the T-shirts and leggings we had been advised to were beneath our clothes. As always the cast were top notch, never breaking character for a second.
It was time to enter our new home, we were marched through to our cells clutching our bagged up possessions in one arm and our regulation prison get-up in the other. The set builds and attention to detail is truly mind blowing and it really felt like you were in a 1940’s Ohio prison (the building was actually an old victorian school).
We then had some time to explore the huge building with its various rooms, the infirmary, the canteen, each with its own set of actors and stories inspired by the film. The thing I love about these events the most is the sense of spontaneity. Although there is obviously a routine that is followed by the cast, there is a sense that anything could happen, an electric buzz of anticipation and intrigue.
When it was finally time for the film we were ushered into the screening rooms, past various members of the cast selling illicit contraband (drinks and popcorn), and all still very much in character. A really lovely touch came during the film, as we watched the rooftop scene where Dufresne persuades guards to give them some beer, the cast came round and handed out a free ‘bottle of suds’ to everyone in the audience. The room was filled with cheers and the sound of clinking bottles.
As always, the whole experience blew me away, they just get better and better. If you haven’t been, make sure you get to the next one. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be doing next.