Cinemagoers took a trip back in time to experience a night at a 1960s picture house thanks to De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s acclaimed film researchers and talented DMU Drama students.
Talent contests and publicity stunts were held throughout the evening at Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema. Actors playing cinemagoers, usherettes and even a commissionaire brought the evening to life before a screening of 1960s adverts, trailers and the feature One Million Years BC.
The evening, part of DMU’s hugely successful Cultural Exchanges Festival, was the brainchild of Dr Matt Jones of DMU's Cinema and Television History Archive (CATH) who has been researching people’s memories of visits to the cinema. Dr Jones worked with Dr Alissa Clarke and Kelly Jordan of DMU Drama Studies to bring the research to life in this innovative way with the help of students, from first years to PhD students.
Actual memories – such as young people trying to sneak into the cinemas to avoid paying – were re-created and the evening finished with a 1960s-themed dance. Special tickets and programmes were printed to commemorate the night.
The immersive theatre night was a novel way of communicating the research to the public and was co-directed by Dr Clarke and Kelly Jordan, with photographer Madeleine Kerslake playing the role of a press photographer as well as providing images for the event. A questionnaire was distributed afterwards to get feedback to feed into future projects.
Dr Jones said: “It is always a risk to take a creative approach to sharing the findings of a research project, but the performance went better than I could have hoped for.
“The cast spent a lot of time exploring the history of 1960s cinemas and the people who passed through their doors, and it really showed. I hope this can be used as a blueprint for a new, exciting approach to engaging the public with the work produced by universities.”
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Gary Cockayne, of Leicester, was at the premiere of One Million Years BC when it opened at the city’s ABC Cinema. He said: “I was 13 and wanted to see Racquel Welch. The programme is spot on, with all the old adverts. We used to go twice a week to the cinema when I was younger.”
“I didn’t quite know what to expect,” said Emma Newbery, who is a regular at the Phoenix. “When I walked in I was greeted by a commissionaire and he would not break character, and then actors were coming up to me. I’d just expected to watch a film, this was like walking onto a theatre set. Really good fun.”
Laura Mayne, of York, took part in the Girl In a Million contest which aimed to recreate talent shows held in cinemas to find “faces of the future”. Contestants were asked to do their best cave girl impression to win a part in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.
She said: ”I’ve been very impressed with the evening. I didn’t know I’d have to roar, but I just went with it!”
CAST: Members of DMU Drama who took part in the re-enactment were: Charlotte Batey, Stacey Brown, Tom Carter, Philip Chambers, Dr Alissa Clarke, Abigail Colebrook, Sophie Doling, Christopher Howitt, senior lecturer Kelly Jordan, Abigail Leeder, Giada Maran, Dominique Palmer, Kieran Sellars, Sophie Swoffer, Reign, George Tildesley and Edith Wang.
Posted on Friday 4th March 2016