"Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure." - Stephen King
Last month Stu and I went to the latest Secret Cinema event - it was Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption.
We started out at the Oak Hampton State Court (Bethnal Green Library that had been converted into the courtroom for the purposes of the night.) There we got condemned, sentenced and carted off by Prison Bus to the Oak Hampton State Penitentiary (aka Cardinal Pole School, in the east end of London.) The production had transformed the space, which was first a Huguenot Hospital then a Catholic School, into the world of the Shawshank Prison.
There was a strict admission procedure, as convicts we were introduced into a terrifying and brutal world. Prisoners learnt to survive by connecting with other convicts, passing secret notes between those they could trust, bribing the guards for illegitimate library cards (for beers) and finding inspiration through cultural means. Some of the offenders staged secret concerts. Mercury Prize nominated Sam Lee held an underground performance in the secret spaces all over the prison.
Andy Dufresne led a revolt by taking control of the Prison tannoy system, playing the Marriage of Figaro, the beauty of the music could be heard by every soul in Oak Hampton. This rebellion roused the convicts to open their ears and eyes to song, and art and cinema. Hope was awoken inside the state penitentiary walls at that moment.
There was a chapel, an exercise yard, prison cells, a laundry, medical facility, a parole room (with a suitably aggressive interview panel) and a library. All these areas were used to reenact parts of the film.
At about 9pm we had lock-down and were then lead into rooms where the film was finally shown to us inmates. We loved it. They even distributed contraband beer at the appropriate point in the film.
Future Cinema will be presenting The Shawshank Redemption again - opens in January 2013. And Secret Cinema returns in April 2013 in London, New York and Athens.