The Ultimate Gin-Joint: Future Cinema Does Casablanca
Posted on Tuesday February 26, 2013, 14:08 by Nick de Semlyen in Empire States
My last two Secret Cinema experiences were not the most relaxing of evenings. First I popped along to the Battle Of Algiers event in the Old Vic Tunnels. Fittingly edgy, considering the 1966 guerrilla-movement doc’s subject matter, it involved being screamed at in French by hooded figures, frog-marched down dank corridors and forced to watch “prisoners” being “tortured” in a strobe-lashed containment area. An intense night, but it proved merely an appetiser for my next outing: The Shawshank Redemption.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but when I think about Frank Darabont’s prison classic, I tend to remember the warmer, fuzzier images. While it has its share of harrowing moments, it’s ultimately a feel-good experience. Secret Cinema’s interpretation, however, was more Tango & Cash than Andy & Red — 100 percent pure prison hell. After being paraded down Bethnal Green High Street, ticket-holders were made to clamber into buses with windows blacked out and driven to a freezing faux-penitentiary, where we were relieved of our jeans and (literally) locked into cells. Mine contained a veteran prisoner, played by an actor who may have immersed himself too far into the role, judging by the fact he at one point had his hands down his trousers and was moaning orgasmically. He may have been a buddy of the starey-eyed lag who followed my friend and I around, repeatedly expressing interest in having sex with our eyeballs. Although undeniably a logistical feat, the event was more uncomfortable than enjoyable — putting more emphasis on ‘river of shit’ than ‘warm beer on a prison roof’.
Fortunately, for their next trick, the team has opted for Casablanca (it’s a Future Cinema, not a Secret one, making it easier to write about). And despite the presence of a cadre of strutting Nazis, who occasionally hauled off shabby-looking suspects into side-rooms, the night I visited was a lot of fun, recreating the glamour and panache of Michael Curtiz’s war romance. If anything, it’s a surprise that it’s taken them so long to get around to this movie: Casablanca is set largely in a single location, boasts several signature costumes, and offers high potential for larking about in a fez. Inside the East End’s Troxy theatre, a more cavernous space than Rick could ever afford, hundreds of spruced-up partygoers danced, gambled at poker tables, and dined on tagine. Sam’s piano, in the centre of the room, was backed up by a swinging orchestra on a stage a-flutter with dancers. There was much hushed talk of exit visas. The only thing missing was a literal hill of beans, but that was probably for the best.
Shorter than Lawrence Of Arabia, more entertaining than Battle Of Algiers and less work than Wings Of Desire, the film itself is a perfect pick for this kind of occasion. Ingrid Bergman’s dewy eyes can still instill a hush in a packed room, while each reprisal of “Here’s looking at you, kid” got a cheer bigger than the last. The loudest applause was reserved for Claude Rains’ cynical gendarme (“I’m shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here,” he declares to Rick’s clientele at one point, before quickly pocketing his winnings).
So, whether you’re dying to showcase your best Bogie drawl, or want to recreate the “play our song” gag from Naked Gun 2 ½, we fully recommend this as a good night out. One word of caution, though: if you see a man with starey eyes, run.
Future Cinema: Casablanca runs until March 23. Tickets are available at http://www.futurecinema.co.uk.