It’s at the exact moment the pianist crescendos into her chorus, that a half-naked man wrapped in a bloodied sheet appears, his screams silencing the keys. I glance around the hotel suite at the other masked guests - some in backless dresses, one in a dressing-gown onesie (me neither) - and wait for someone to react. Don’t worry - I’m not about to be called to the witness stand; Secret Theatre is back in town and I went along to get lost in their twisty turny new tale: The Invitation.
From bare-knuckle fights in a warehouse through to crowds in Hong Kong zipping towards a haunted mansion on a speedboat, Secret Theatre has traversed the world with various takes on hugely popular films. For their latest project, they’ve mashed up two cult features: SE7EN and Eyes Wide Shut, creating a night of sexy, subversive theatre. Our evening starts at one of Bethnal Green’s most beautiful buildings, where pushing open heavy oak doors leads to a man towering over guests, his face obscured by a mask reminiscent of plague doctors.
Once we’re checked off his list, we secure our own disguise and climb the marble stairs, following the sounds of singing and muted chatter to the master suite. Everyone is masked - a nod to Eyes Wide Shut - giving the party an illusive, mysterious feel, and when a couple of scantily dressed dancers start writhing in the centre, tension mounts. No one likes a spoiler - so I’ll leave the plot details out from here - but across the course of two hours we move between rooms, following a pair of detectives attempting to solve a gruesome crime.
Using hidden clues and some skillful improvisation, the cast kept our interest throughout, occasionally calling on audience members - who without realising, had already stumbled into the play earlier in the evening. By the time the night climaxed, we were left shaking our heads at the clever details woven throughout, along with the comment on current issues.
The DesignMyNight Digest
There’s a reason Secret Theatre ticket releases are eagerly anticipated across the globe; the performances are a thrilling step into cult films. The Invitation is no exception - strong acting, timely themes running throughout, attention to detail, and a frankly gorgeous venue, make this one of East London’s darkest nights out. Just don't ask what's in the box...