In 1973, the psychologist Rosenhan sent a group of completely sane participants to commit themselves to an asylum to study the notion of sanity. Once there, the participants were struck by the difficulty of convincing the medical staff of the stability of their minds.
As we were questioned by a stern faced doctor in a drab institutional office last week, we couldn’t help but empathise with these patients. Luckily for us, however, we hadn’t actually been committed to Ward 12, we were in fact there for the latest Secret Cinema event. The effect nonetheless, was unnerving.
Secret Cinema, organised by "worldwide creative community" Future Shorts, takes over a new location each month to stage elaborate, interactive screenings of iconic films. Audience members are kept in the dark until the actual night of the showing, but are given subtle clues along with a "dress code", during the preceding weeks.
Instructed to arrive with a dressing gown, toothbrush and first class stamps, we rolled up to this month’s location — a derelict hospital near Ladbroke Grove — brimming with anticipation. Upon arrival we discovered the film was to be the Jack Nicholson classic, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and that’s when things started to get a little, well, mental.
Once admitted we set to exploring the hospital, authentically kitted out to resemble the asylum of the film. Everything from casually strewn medical notebooks to the staff and patients — thankfully played by actors — had been meticulously prepared to imitate the atmosphere and mise en scene of the film. After absorbing our environment and collecting our "prescribed meds", in the form of alcohol and Calpol-glazed donuts, the film was screened following an outbreak of fog and genuinely creepy group singing.
Arguably one of their most ambitious events to date, Future Shorts has set itself a high bar for their next venture. One of the strangest outings we've ever had the pleasure of attending (don't expect to actually watch a film, it's more the post-meal espresso than the main event) Secret Cinema comes highly recommended.
Words by Jordan Waller