The trend for immersive movie and theatre experiences is one that may not be for everyone, but I happen to be an absolutely gigantic fan of. I’d had my eye on Future Cinema for a while, so when the opportunity came up to be sent down, you couldn’t get me there fast enough. After experiencing the incredible Sleep No More in New York, in which you watch Macbeth played out in dance sequences around a Kubrick-esque fictional abandoned 1920’s hotel, I well and truly had the bug.
As a massive fan of both the classic 1994 movie, and the immersive ‘thing’, Future Cinema’s Shawshank Redemption did not disappoint. After legging it to Bethnal Green, we were thrown straight in, with a less than encouraging meeting with our jittery lawyer. After a dressing down from the quite frankly terrifying Judge Tyrus, we met with another lawyer, who accepts bribes of £20 to provide you with a ‘library card’, which will get you food and drinks when you make it to jail. (The sprint to the event meant that we neglected to get any cash, so I couldn’t tell you what the food was. After 6 hours we were kinda hungry though, so consider it recommended that you get one.)
We then walked from the yard where we were routinely humiliated by a guard, and taken to an original 1940’s bus, which provided the bumpy ride to Oakham State Penitentiary.
I’d been sentenced to 16 months. My crime? Everyone’s innocent in here. Didn’t you know that? *
*False testimony though, since you asked.
Now at this point we’d all been having a bit of a laugh at the guards, answering back and whatnot, cocky and full of it, but when we were lined up in the gym and ordered to strip down to our t-shirts and long johns (my friend, much to the amusement of the guards hadn’t clocked this bit on the court summons, and stood quivering in his boxers) it was clear that shit, as one Martin Lawrence once declared, just got real.
We were then lead to our cells, where we put on our prison issue clothing and headed out into the depths of Shawshank. Instructed to get as many work stamps as we could for our parole, we tried our hand at candle making, and hovered around the art therapy for a while. We were disappointed not to make it to the end of the queue for the mugshots, which looked amazing, but then we did turn up to the last possible time slot we could manage, so probably our bad on that one.
After a party in the basement turned into a riot and a shooting, we were all gathered in one of the wings, as word got out that Tommy had been shot. We watched Andy Dufresne slip straight out of the prison unnoticed, and as the missing prisoner alarm went up we were ushered back into the gym where a screening of The Shawshank Redemption awaited us.
That film is impeccable. It really is. Right on cue we squirmed as The Sisters overpowered Andy (they certainly took a shine to me, in one of the scarier interactions with the characters), we laughed as Red took his bets, and we sobbed as Brooks couldn’t adjust. The staff ran out with beers for everybody when Andy managed to win them for his friends, and the riotous cheering as the movie drew to a close was a perfect end to what was a totally unique experience.
The attention to detail was remarkable, and the whole event was an exceptionally well-executed homage to what is arguably one of the best films of the last century. If you get into it, you’ll get plenty out of it, but be warned that it’s not for the faint hearted. You’ll be screamed at, insulted, ushered around barefoot in the freezing cold, but for cinema geeks who just want to get inside every aspect of a classic movie, this is an extremely special night out. We’re just sorry we missed Blade Runner!
Shawshank runs until the 24th February. Tickets are going fast but are still available here: http://www.futurecinema.co.uk/tickets watch the below teaser video for an idea of what’s in store, in jail:
By Fiona Gales