We were given instructions to show up to a court summons in the beautiful Bethnal Green Library, wearing a suit with a t-shirt and long johns underneath. Here I was swiftly sentenced by a foul-mouthed judge, before being marched away by a very intimidating prison warden onto a bus and on to a second destination to spend the night in jail.
Once we arrived at the prison, were marched into the gym where we were issued with regulation uniforms, walked through communal showers (populated with naked, fighting bathers), and locked into our cells. There was not one moment where the actors let their guard down. It was meticulous and the results were truly impressive. We were turned into prisoners.
After our initial lock down we were released from our cells and allowed to roam around the prison (a disused school… funny just how prison like it was). From there we went to check out the canteen. I was served approximately 10 baked beans while being shouted at by the guards. Soon after we were seated, a band started playing and we were able to exchanged our library cards for beer, whiskey, and other contraband. We were then free to wander around the prison and look for a work detail – I wanted to get in on a little candle making action, but as we were the last time slot of the evening, we unfortunately ran out of time.
The whole experience was completely immersive and encouraged the audience to become participants. There were a few points during the night when I was no longer sure who was and who wasn’t an actor. Even once the screening started, the theatrics did not stop. At one point during the film the characters enjoy rare, cold beers, and we were treated to the same.
The attention to detail had a truly powerful effect and allowed us to truly experience the film.
Future Cinema has just added a few more tickets here, to the otherwise sold out experience, so grab tickets now to make sure you don’t miss out on your last chance to live shawshank.