Emerging from the escalators at Canary Wharf into an unseasonably cold and damp June evening, the first sight that greeted us was of two futuristic policemen standing guard, while air stewardesses in retro outfits guided ‘passengers’ to a Utopian Airways shuttle. After a few minutes on board, a man in a trench coat abruptly stopped the bus, alerting the passengers and crew that we were to be redirected to a holding station in the wake of a replicant rebellion. In case anyone hadn’t figured it out by now, we were on our way to a screening of Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film Blade Runner.
The bus reached its destination a few moments later, a desolate yard in the shadows of Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers. Walking between rows of shipping containers, boys in uniform yelled at us to hurry inside the warehouse; we were harassed by refugees and disturbed by the site of three vertically challenged men taking baseball bats to a car. Inside was a stunning recreation of the film’s futuristic vision of LA, with its crowded stalls selling anything from noodles to replicant pets. Pole dancers, masks covering their faces, shimmied on top of scaffolding, overlooking the bar where Chrome Hoof, clad in gold, played a set of jarring, angular rock. Women with snakes draped across their shoulders roamed through the crowd. A woman in a see-through plastic coat sat at a vanity table applying make-up. An actress, dressed in torn stockings and a fur coat, wearing a blonde wig, wandered, oblivious, through the guests. Outside in the back yard, a fire-eater performed on top of an armoured vehicle.
While it was impossible to completely shake the feeling that it was all an elaborate set-up, the level of detail that went into organising the event was near genius. The army of actors, who portrayed nuns, strippers, police officers, Decker, Roy, Rachael, and almost everyone from the cast, were impressive in their ability to stay in character while surrounded by throngs of film-goers knocking back sushi and beer. A few drinks later, when we were finally ushered into the screening room, the recreation of J.F Sebastien’s apartment that greeted us was breathtaking; more actors and actresses dressed as his robotic playthings littered the remarkable set. By that time, the film itself was almost a side-show, the crowd even cheering at the scene when Decker and Rachael kiss. But there was still a surprise left in store for the audience: Decker and Roy, playing out their final scene, hanging off the brick wall of the warehouse, illuminated by a projection of the building’s faÃ§ade.
It was a remarkable night; and it’s almost impossible to imagine how Secret Cinema will ever top it. I’ll certainly be there next time to see if they pull it off.