Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shhh..Secret Cinema

A friend of mine heard through a friend of a friend about the Secret Cinema which is a company who organise pop up cinema experiences all over London. The experiences aren't just a normal day at the movies. First you have to buy tickets not knowing what time it starts, where it will be or what you are seeing. All you know is that you will see a movie. I LOVE surprises so a few friends and I bought tickets and waited for our next clue.

About a month before the night we got a long lengthy email about a 'rouge' who had gone into hiding. A week later we got a map of where to go and instructions for meeting our undercover tour guide. The following week we got instructions on what to wear so we would be recognised - we were told to wear trench coats, fur, trilby hats, netted ladies hats and most of all a white scarf or bring a white handkerchief. Between all of this we asked to add "Henry Rose Fleming" on facebook and change our profile picture to a silhouette. Once we added him we got lots of cryptic updates on what it was about.

Finally it was the day and we all met at Barbican station where we could meet our undercover representative. We were told to look for the balloon and as we walked around the corner we saw a girl in a trilby hat, trench coat and white scarf holding some balloons. Once we went up to her she asked us to show her some white and once we flashed our scarves and hankies we were directed down an alleyway to where a few other people were waiting. From he we were led of down a secret alley ways, around corners, down side streets and past a graveyard by a tall man who only spoke to us in Russian. As we were walking down the alley way we had to watch for the police and hide if we saw them, creep past a funeral procession and overall just act really shifty like spies.

We finally got to the end of our journey (pretty much directly behind where we started) and we received instructions in German from a man dressed as a soldier. We were told that we needed to get our papers, exchange our currency and to do so needed a special handshake. All of this information pretty much went straight over my head and as we were being led through scaffolding and climbing rickety stairs I was starting to wonder what I had got myself in for. After about half an hour we finally got inside the venue where the 'cinema' was going to be.

The venue turned out to be a converted warehouse buidling site combo of a whole load of things. In one side there was a saloon bar where people wearing red ties and red hankies were being led in through a private door (lucky sods). From here we walked upstairs and discovered a police staff room with evidence boxes, photos and finger printing materials strewen around. As we walked across a walkway we looked down to a stage below that had french actors rehearsing a scene in Victorian clothing. On the other side of the walkway we ended up in a hospital wing and then around the corner into a hotel room. I know this all sounds a bit crazy and a bit of a jumble but thats exactly how I felt. What I did think was amazing though was the amount of detail that went into each room and each area. In fact we had a bit of a nosy around the motel room and they even had clothes in the wardrobe to match the theme.

While we were wandering around and making our discoveries we were often approached by men in uniform (not really a bad thing if you ask me), black market 'rouges' trying to sell us perfume and other strange characters such as a lady wrapped in a duvet. They were speaking different languages at different times and all seemed to be doing something shifty. Even the bar staff were fabulous and played the part - serving us themed cocktails, bought by our paper money we had exchanged real money for while telling us about the local trade.

After a couple of hours of checking out the antics, having a few drinks and grabbing a bite to eat we were told the movie was about to start. We wandered into one of the many many rooms that were showing the movie (ours was actually a replica train station) and settled in for the movie to begin. As the credits were beginning to roll we were interrupted by a man about to do a speech. Once again it was all a bit over my head but it was fun to play along and listen to what he had to say. Only after that had been done then the movie began to play and everything all started to make sense.

The movie was 'The Third Man' and was set in Austria when it was run by the Russians and French (explaining all the different languages). It was a murder mystery love story action film featuring all sorts of different characters (yes you guessed it an old lady wrapped in a duvet) set it all different kinds of scenes including hospitals, theaters and hotels. Every time a new thing that had been featured in the venue became apparent in the movie you would hear a bit of a murmur through the crowd.

It was a really cool way to be told a story - by getting you be an actor, participator and part of the scene. By showing you bits and pieces there was an air of mystery created and by seeing the film you go home with it happily solved. It was such a great experience and one I would totally do again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Beautiful Sight, We're Happy Tonight...

...Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

Last year I posted about my trip to Winter Wonderland and how much fun it was going on the rides and drinking baileys and hot chocolates. This year Winter Wonderland was set up again in Hyde Park and I couldn't wait to get back to some festive fun. So much so I actually went twice.

The first time was for a Christmas dinner with my cousins who also live in London as we wouldn't be seeing each other at Christmas. They hadn't been before so it was fun walking around with them, looking at the markets, buying gingerbread hearts and buying some mulled wine (which I actually could manage to drink this year). Instead of trying some tasty market food from many many vendors we booked a table in a pop-up Bavarian restaurant. There was a great two for one offer on a three course meal so we splurged out and got a delicious meal. Chicken wings, followed by burger (or roast) followed by ice cream or chocolate fondue was the perfect meal to a fun night. While we were eating we listened to an acapella girl group who started out by singing some great Christmas carols. Their music then turned strange with renditions of Radiohead's "Creep" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl". From there we had a bit of a wander through the rest of the wonderland before calling it a night! Even though it was only late November it was a great way to get into the Christmas Spirit.

The second time I went this year was with a group of friends who had recently moved over from Australia. They hadn't been before either and as they were all adjusting to their first winter abroad it was nice to do something Christmassy to get us into the spirit. We met up after work and the first stop was at a pop up bar for a some beer and mulled wine. We sat upstairs in a cosy little bar and its hard to believe that it wasn't there all year round with the amount of decorations and detail that went into it.

From there we started to get hungry so we found a stall selling some food. Some of the best part of Winter Wonderland is often all the stores are German or Austrian so their food is delicious. You can get German sausages, Frittes and pork rolls but my favourite is fried potatoes with onion and bacon. Droooool! After we had lined our stomachs we were ready to continue on. This time we made more of an effort to look at the markets and wander through the wonderland. Stopping every now and then for Dan to play a side show and lose his money. I got really excited when I found a fairy floss stall and Lauren and I shared a traditional serve on a stick. It went everywhere! We found the ice rink and watched people skating (and falling over) for awhile before winding our way back to the beginning.

Both nights (just like the one last year) were so much fun. Wandering through somewhere all decorated and themed like Christmas with carols playing and people in the festive mood. The only thing that could top it off was if it snowed!