- A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
- Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
- Capital by John Lancaster
- End of Watch by Stephen King
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.
The thing about reading Stephen King novels is that it will always bring about memories of other Stephen King novels. During Mr Mercedes the writer name checked a couple of his most well-known tales by referring to the big screen adaptations of two of his novels, It and Christine. (Fun fact: in my first year of University, I dressed as Christine for Halloween. I taped torches to my legs as headlights. It was fucking amazing.) King has spent years creating an intricate fictional universe where many of his novels can connect with each other. Like watching John Hughes films in the 80s, catching the subtle references to other stories is one of the fun things about reading his books. When I read Revival last year, I was more overjoyed that I should have been to discover a reference to another of his recent works. I think I audibly squeed when a character mentioned a certain North Carolina amusement park: Joyland.
Those of you paying attention will notice that for the first time in 13 weeks I missed a TBT. I don’t even have a good excuse: I was just super tired and couldn’t think of anything good to write about. Although, the reason for my tired state was because I had been staying up too late to get to the end of my sixth (I think) book of the year: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. Regular readers will know that I’ve been burnt by King before so I went in with limited expectations, which, considering the hype when it came out, was fucking difficult. With the second book in the Bill Hodge’s trilogy coming out next month, I had to find out if I’d be making another purchase or carrying on with my mission to decrease the number of unread books on my shelf.
I never really know what to think about Stephen King. I have a great deal of respect for him as a writer and for his attitude towards the publishing world in general. However, the last few of his books that I’ve made my way through have never quite delivered the promise that his reputation makes for them. I fell in love with the gorgeous, pulpy cover for his 2013 book Joylandbut found the final twist to be really fucking dull. Am I missing something? Or is this King of contemporary horror just a little pedestrian these days? Not terrible by any means but nothing to get excited about. Although, he always has this way of drawing me back in. My fucking huge TBR pile has prevented me from buying Mr Mercedes so far, his first 2014 release, but every time I see it on the shelf I get a little bit closer. It was the connection to Frankenstein and HP Lovecraft that persuaded me to break my book buying ban for Revival. If something connected to Mary Shelley then I’d probably be tempted to break anything to try it.