Let’s be honest, 2015 was a massive year for us fans.
And as my excitement for The Force Awakens grew, so did my book collection and as my birthday approached, my wife began plotting gifts.
And bang, she knocked it out of the park, two tickets to the Secret Cinema: Empire Strikes Back.
True to the name, we had no idea what to expect. We didn’t even get a location until a few days before the event. We were sent instructions to dress according to a faction we had to discover by taking a test (we both were smugglers), and that we had to go and buy props.
I made myself a rough but ready Han Solo outfit, my wife dressed somewhat smuggler-y. We drove to London, went to the shop and bought some props (goggles, a coloured scarf, a couple of patches) and made our way to the secret location.
We all lined up by a building and then, in small groups , we were welcomed to the Rebellion and to avoid the Empire’s agents we had to run through a London street. It was nuts. Amazing but nuts.
After signing in and sealing our phones we went inside into what was a Rebel hanger bay.
We got loaded into a shipping crate and General Madine told us that we were going to be shipped off to the Rebel base. We were taken into the ‘ship’ and watched through the view screen as we took off, a Star Destroyer hovered over the city. We went into space and then to lightspeed.
We came out of lightspeed and landed, only to be boarded by an Imperial Officer and two Stormtroopers who captured someone. We then disembarked with instructions to find currency to barter our way into a ship.
We found ourselves in Mos Eisley!!! I was so excited! They had built a set in a warehouse. Characters moved around the place, lots of Stormtroopers. Boba Fett walked past us. Luke, Ben and the droids drove past us. We went to the Cantina where a band was playing. When they played the Cantina music everyone got up to dance.
Suddenly there was a commotion and we saw Han and Chewie run from the bar. That was our cue to leave to go to the transport.
Where we ended up on The Death Star!!! We milled around until a Stormtrooper told us to go to the lower level where we all gathered and watched as Tarkin had Alderaan destroyed, Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie fought Imperial forces. Obi-Wan and Vader fought and after the briefing from General Dodonna, Luke’s X-Wing flew overhead, I will admit, at that point I had a tear in my eye. Then he landed and we saw the medal ceremony before being taken into a screening area where we watched the film.
Not only did we watch the film, the actors also re-enacted some scenes. Leia led Rebel forces through Echo Base past us. We saw the Han & Leia kiss on a platform above us. Vader marches by through a corridor next to us and right above the screen we saw Luke and Vader fight, Luke lost his hand and fell from the platform to escape.
As we left, a giant smile plastered on my face, a big party kicked off in the main area and I saw Lobot doing The Robot.
I spent the whole drive home being so slobberingly grateful I’m sure my wife was sick of me by the time we got home. It was amazing. A truly immersive and memorable Star Wars experience.