Come on, who doesn’t love Dirty Dancing? The classic ’80s movie has everything: a dreamy setting, compelling subplots, romance, and, of course, smoking hot leads. The romance movie acted as a breakout role for Jennifer Grey, and showed the late Patrick Swayze at the very top of his game — there’s a reason that, even after 35 years, the teen movie remains ingrained in the public consciousness and, as I discovered that evening, has a more impassioned and dedicated fanbase than you might expect.
This isn’t my first Secret Cinema rodeo — I previously had a ‘ball’ at the Bridgerton Secret Cinema night — but the Dirty Dancing event definitely took me by surprise in a lot of ways: some of these surprises were welcome, but others? Not so much.
As with most Secret Cinema events, there’s a little bit of online prep you have to do beforehand. In this case, I had to choose which affluent family I wanted to represent as part of our coming-of-age vacation to Kellerman’s (the holiday resort from Dirty Dancing). I ended up going for the Goodman family, who are described as “understated, neat, well-dressed, and distinguished” — so the perfect choice for me, whose trademark look is tacky earrings and my plus one, a hardcore goth.
Nonetheless, we dressed to impress and made our way to the Tube station for our allotted sign-in slot as 6:20pm (apparently, my plus-one wanted to get there at half 5 despite our later sign-in slot and I didn’t realise, meaning she had to hang around waiting for quite a long time. Sorry, Emma.)
Part of the fun of Secret Cinema is its hidden location, but the good news is staff members were easy to spot in their Kellerman’s-branded wear. Along our journey, they were stationed at various points with giant arrows, meaning it was relatively easy to navigate. The problem is, in comparison to the Bridgerton event, the location was quite a long way away, and with many of us dressed to the nines in the middle of a heatwave, the walk wasn’t the most comfortable thing.
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Bear in mind, I’m a lazy fucker and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of walking, but I feel like for those with mobility issues or other disabilities which make long distances difficult, another mode of transport like a minibus to the location would have been more appropriate. Luckily, I had the Kellerman’s staff cheering me on so I was able to have war flashbacks to Sports Day at school.
In many ways, however, the journey was worth it: the location itself far exceeded my expectations. While the Bridgerton event was mostly confined to a few (albeit well-decorated) rooms in a teepee, Kellerman’s was creatively decorated and sprawled over a huge field, with various activities on offer including putt-shot, mini-golf, sack races, photobooths, art classes, and, of course, dance classes.
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Each family (there were four in total) was allocated a different coloured flag, and whenever you performed well in an activity like putt-shot, scores were added to your family. For all intents and purposes, it was similar to Hogwarts houses, with various activities granting you ‘points’ for your house, and if you won a competitive event, you even got a medal as an award — so definitely a great format if, like me, you are violently competitive. To top it all off, there was even a talent show that you had the option to sign up to and participate in.
There’s also a lot to do if you’re looking for a more laid-back night. There were two bars, countless food stalls, and plenty of picnic benches — with all the space, it definitely gave festival vibes.
But as great as the layout was (you really felt like you were on holiday), there were definitely a few drawbacks. First of all, it was near-impossible to be able to experience everything before the movie started at 8pm, so given that our check-in was 6:20 and then we had to do at least a 20-25 minute walk towards to the venue, we had just over an hour to do things, which was not nearly enough time to get the full experience.
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Although earlier check-ins up to 5:30 were an option, I’m doubtful that anyone who checked in around the same time as us or later would have gotten value for their money (tickets range from £51).
A lot of the time, myself and Emma were just desperately trying to do enough of the activities and get enough of the experience so that I had things to write about — not exactly the holiday vibe. Something that the Bridgerton event did a lot better was utilize some of its paid actors to approach guests and encourage them to join in with an activity or be part of a scripted scenario with another actor. Maybe that kind of direction and structure doesn’t suit everyone, but without people to help guide us along the right path, it definitely felt like we didn’t get as much as we could out of the experience.
When we did learn of a place that would allow us to interact with the actors (the staff quarters where staff secretly danced, like in the movie), staff were unfortunately very unhelpful in telling us how we can gain access to it — even when we broke character and straight up begged to go in there so we’d have something to write about and be able to do this review accurately.
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A big part of Secret Cinema and immersive experiences, in general, is that interaction with actors, so the fact we had little to none of that during this event was a little disappointing and further reinforced the fact that earlier check-in times were the only way you could hope to get value for money.
However, having the actors act out key scenes from the movie while it played on a large projector in the background was certainly innovative and elevated your usual run-of-the-mill outdoor cinema experience to another level.
By the end, everyone in the audience was up and dancing — including me. So no, it wasn’t perfect, but what family holiday is?
You can purchase tickets for the immersive experience now on the Secret Cinema website.
Secret Cinema: Dirty Dancing review
Fell slightly short of being the time of my life, but still good fun.