I’ve wanted to try Sneaky Experience for a really long time but have never had the opportunity until recently. For those not in the know, Sneaky Experience create pop-up cinema screenings to audiences in weird locations. They make the screening an event and dress the location to link to the film. It’s always sounded amazing but I’ve never managed to get tickets. There have been Harry Potter screenings at Kirkstall Abbey and Christmas screenings of Elf that have eluded me. However, I finally managed to find a screening I wanted to attend and could get tickets for. The fact that I was going with a co-worker who is definitely more attached to me than I am to him was a price I was just going to have to pay. On Saturday night, straight after an awful day at work, I headed to Leeds town hall to watch The Shawshank Redemption.
We started off pre-experience having to fill out a Prisoner Information form. It included things like name, photo (or a hastily and badly drawn picture), crime and my alibi. I spent much longer than I needed to thinking up a good alibi because, ultimately, nothing much happened with this piece of paper. Although, I was quite proud so I’m going to discuss it here. As I was being sent down for the crime Andy Dufresne was incarcerated for, I decided to use the plot of Bull Durham as my alibi. I couldn’t have committed the crime because I wasn’t Shawshank Tim Robbins; I was Bull Durham Tim Robbins.
Whilst I ultimately enjoyed the whole experience I have to admit there was a lot more waiting around than I’d expected. Obviously there was a fuck load of people to get through the whole thing but there wasn’t a great deal to it. There were only about 4 stops on the whole tour and the interaction in each section was limited. It was fun, yes, but it could have been more substantial. I mean, the prisoner information form suggested we would have our fingerprints taken at some point but that never occurred. The price is pretty hefty and, I can see why. I was just left feeling that my money could have been put towards something greater. I didn’t need the shitty photobooth and felt that the money could have been used better.
I once saw a production of The Merchant of Venice in Lancaster castle where the action moved around the rooms using what the building had on offer. For example, the courtroom scene was set in the old courtroom. It was one of the best Shakespeare productions I’ve ever seen because you were fully immersed in the plot. I sort of expected Sneaky Experience to feel a bit more like that but it was just a bit of a lame duck in comparison. I mean there were scenes lifted straight from the film and acted out in real life but it just felt like something was missing. Something I realise isn’t fair as you’re freer with a play than a film. Still, part of me thinks Sneaky Experience would benefit from a smaller scale and a more personal experience.
Although, if the right film comes along I’ll definitely be up for another Sneaky Experience. It is something I won’t forget and gave me the chance to see a wonderful film. I’ve never seen Shawshank on a big screen and, as it’s still one of the best films ever made, I was able to experience it in a way I never had. It’s a beautiful film and well acted. The film is powerful, emotional and, ultimately, uplifting. Morgan Freeman is just outstanding and his chemistry with Robbins is great. My only possible criticism would be that it’s a tad long but that probably has more to do with how long I’d been sitting and waiting for it to start.