Future Cinema: Casablanca

We were told to arrive no later than 1pm. Rick’s was located on the backstreets of Casablanca (read: Commercial Road, London) where we were then to be met “under a bridge”. Only a day before (in a fit of anxious, late-night preparation) I had messily glued a picture of myself to my printed-out ID card that I was warned not to forget if I was to be granted entrance at Rick’s. Luckily I didn’t, and thankfully so, because soon after I arrived a stout female soldier asked for my ID card. I fumbled around for a bit before compiling, excitedly informing her that my name was Leah Bocharova and I was from Italy. She nodded and moved on.

The event had barely begun, and already, Future Cinema was showing us that it meant business. Every now and then, a soldier would pick someone out at random and interrogate them for their papers, sometimes even instructing them to face the wall with their hands in the air. It was like being in a Martin Scorsese movie, surrounded by men in trilbies and women sporting victory rolls. Even better, it felt like being in Casablanca; citizens anxious to make their way back to a neutral America and hoping Rick’s Cafe would lend them some much-needed entertainment and distraction.

As we entered Rick’s, we made our way down a narrow passage large enough only for single-file – the hum of voices, chatter and distant laughter enticing us all the way – passing exotic plants, beaded doorways and a man bartering jewellery and cigars (to which I said no to, terrified I might be fake-arrested by the soldiers). When we finally arrived at the club, the atmosphere was spell-binding. The Troxy itself is an astonishing venue, decorated like something you’d find in a members-only club in the mid-30s. Tonight it lived up to its decor, as circular dinner tables were carefully laid out amongst roulette tables, old-fashioned popcorn stands and the Blue Parrot bar, serving us colourful foods. Suave and sophisticated, Rick’s possessed an air of intrigue and style, as if we’d actually taken a trip back in time.

And where was Rick a.k.a Humphrey Bogart, life of the party? Well, he was silently playing chess, an empty seat in front of him, awaiting whichever gutsy soul would join him for a match. Humble and chic, the actor playing Rick took on a charming embodiment of Casablanca‘s famous protagonist.

Indulging in a (delightfully affordable) gin and tonic, my friend and I meandered our way to the front, where the action seemed to be buzzing. Dancers were a-dancing (at this stage of the night, the dance floor mainly occupied by actors and professional dancers) and the band was in full swing on stage. Naturally, Sam was playing the piano in the centre of the dance floor, kitted out in a sparkly purple tux and singing his heart out. My friend grabbed my arm, “It’s like, we’re ACTUALLY in the film!” It was. It really was.

Be careful you don’t edge too close to the dance floor however, lest you be whisked off by an actor in a spur-of-the-moment jitterbug, like I was. While it was an admirable attempt to help a rhythmless me try out a few elementary steps, it was more of an awkward shuffle on my part than anything resembling a dance. Still, I tried my best (it’s all too complicated for me) and he seemed happy enough to go along with it. Before too long my friend and I were firmly back in our seats, safe in the knowledge that no-one was hurt by my messy dancing, when my friend’s drink was knocked out of her hand. We turned around, ready with an evil eye, when a handsome fellow apologised profusely and suddenly whisked my friend away to the bar to buy her another drink. I decided to wait it out on my own, cursing at life for not having thrown a drink out of my hand. When she came back, she informed me that he was an actor and had invited her to a “secret meeting at the Blue Parrot” after hours. Everything around us seemed to be in keeping with the film, including this little improvised sketch. A commendable effort by the creative minds at Future Cinema.

The highlight of the experience was, truly, re-living the story as never before. We crouched on the ground as gunshots blasted, fights broke out between soldiers and Ilsa made her way down spotlighted stairs. Famous lines were uttered, and if you weren’t at the front where the main action was taking place, you could at least gather a storm was brewing by the silence that swept the club. The re-enactments and the interaction were fluent, smooth and seemed to come to as natural an end as ever.

When Casablanca finally played after 2 or 3 hours of drinking, gambling and dancing, the audience were engrossed. The lights dimmed in our mini time capsule, the cocktail shaking stopped and the actors vanished. We were left on our own with the voices of a bygone era and a black and white Bogie murmuring the words we so longed to hear all night, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns…”

Ahh, lovely.

If you’re anything like me, then the prospect of dressing up in costume, watching a great film and talking to strangers about great films makes you go all warm and gooey inside. It’s all the fun parts of acting without the added pressure of learning lines or pleasing an audience. Future Cinema do exceptional things for the future of cinema; creating experiences unlike any other and allowing people to immerse themselves in a completely different world helps individuals rediscover the magic of film. Whichever Future Cinema experience you decide to have, I guarantee you’ll never have experienced anything like it before.

Future Cinema have recently added more dates for Casablanca, click here to score yourself a ticket!

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