The greatest thing…

Secret Cinema do “immersive experiences” based on films. You shows up, you’re in an immersive space, then you watch the film. Back in the day, you never knew what the film was. You showed up, not knowing what to expect, they took you somewhere, you watched something.

Now, that’s pretty cool, but what I think they realised is that an immersive experience needs the people as well as the environment to be dressed right, and act right. So nowadays their blockbuster shows tell you what you’re going to see, how to look, and there’s crew about to give you something to interact with before the film.

I’ve been to a couple: Empire Strikes Back, and Moulin Rouge.

The immersive element before Empire Strikes Back was the original Star Wars story. The set looked amazing, and it turned out there were enough geek-sci-fi-fans around for the folk going to have looked good too. When we landed in Mos Eisley, my inner seven year old just stumbled about open-mouthed. When we walked into the cantina with the diddly diddly music playing, he was slack-jawed (*), when we got to use Jedi mindtricks on a stormtrooper, he was in seventh heaven, when the Death Star pulled us in a tractor beam, he was punch-drunk with experience-shock, and when a life-size x-wing executed an attack run over our heads, he actually exploded. It was pretty awesome. You got (physically) immersed. You got to interact.

But I’ve enjoyed Moulin Rouge more.

So much more, I’ve been twice.

It’s still Secret. What happens in Montmatre stays there, but with no spoilers, I can say why I preferred it.

I found the interaction more interesting. Don’t get me wrong, cutting deals with Jawa, and using Jedi tricks to break rebels out of jail at Empire Strikes Back was ace. However, I found there was more I could interact *with* at Moulin Rouge.  You got a character brief, with an objective, and something of a lever on the world.  As well as the signposted interactive elements, the quest NPCs if you like, there was reason enough to interact with the majority of the other people there. And I think that was it. More of the interaction could be, should be, would be with the other punters.

And partly, because we watched the film as an *us* rather than an *audience*. The film at Empire Strikes Back was an irrelevance: we just watched. The film at Moulin Rouge just carried on the immersive, interactive, inspirational, communal experience. More of the action in the film was conducive to this approach; and we were expertly orchestrated by Satie’s conducting. You are dancing when there’s dancing on screen, you are singing – badly, and off-key, but singing – whenever there’s singing on screen. You’re making the experience together.

I absolutely, totally loved it. Essentially, I think it’s a fest lrp done brilliantly. There’s enough for people to watch if they simply want to be immersed in an environment. There’s interaction if you choose to chase it – and if you don’t, some player like me might invite you along anyway. And there’s enough inspiration in the background to give those players the tools they need.

My enthusiasm isn’t universal. According to some other folk who’ve gone, the reality of the more signposted stuff involving crew characters – the “plot”, I guess – didn’t match the promise. I tend to approach my larp-event-fun pretty defensively – I bring my own fun every time – so this didn’t hit me. Because not *everyone* learns their “character brief”, those sorts of interactions never work. I don’t think I asked anyone their name, so that passed me by. One person described it as a club night with a film in the middle. They go to better clubs than I do.

After Empire Strikes Back, I said I’d not bother with multiplexes so much, I’d just save up until Secret Cinema did something else in a genre I liked. After Moulin Rouge, I’d be happy going to one fewer lrps a year, and blowing the cash on a night out. It’s not *exactly* a lrp, in that there’s precious little characterisation or *emotional* immersion going on. It’s kinda like a gateway drug to lrp, although not many other settings would do *such* a good job of that. But my goodness it’s immersive, interactive and inspired me to get involved.

And that’s most of what I look for in a lrp.

(* I am told the correct term for that genre of music is “Jizz”. Hmm.)

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