University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

'Tell no-one': Secret Cinema and the Paradox of Secrecy.

Alston, Adam (2016) 'Tell no-one': Secret Cinema and the Paradox of Secrecy. In: Performance and Participation: Practices, Audiences, Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Alston, Tell No-one.pdf
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (418kB) | Preview
Text (licence)
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (33kB) | Preview


This chapter considers the oddness of secrecy’s prominence in contemporary theatre marketing strategies that flaunt secrecy as a trope: for instance, in the recent campaigns of several London-based companies including the Lyric Hammersmith’s Secret Theatre Company, Secret Theatre London, and Secret Cinema. It also considers the incorporation of secrecy in the design of frameworks for audience immersion and participation in fairly recent work by Punchdrunk and Coney that encourage audiences to discover a performance’s hidden depths through physically explorative participation (Punchdrunk), or covert forms of participation that are meant to go unnoticed (Coney). Both of these areas – the economics and aesthetics of secrecy – inform the production and reception of work by Secret Cinema, especially, which pulls focus in this chapter. Secret Cinema makes live immersive theatre performances of films that are unknown in advance of a screening that appends each show. Audiences are encouraged to advertise the performance in advance of going by telling others to ‘tell no one’ about it on social media, and they are prompted to figure out the film’s identity by engaging with clues and procedures for participation that are inscribed in a marketing strategy and embedded within immersive environments. Drawing on sociological and psychological studies of secrecy, Erving Goffman’s concept of ‘keying’, and recent scholarship on audience participation and immersion, the chapter explores notions of audience inclusivity and exclusivity in work by Secret Cinema and how these notions are informed by a framework for audience participation and immersion that ties in with the economic uses of secrecy. I argue that the kind of secrecy at stake is a paradoxically spectacular and commodified secrecy in a contemporary twist on the secret society, complicating the binding of secrecy to polarised notions of inclusivity and exclusivity, inclusion and exclusion.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Guildford School of Acting
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Editors :
Nicholson, H
Harpin, A
Date : 15 July 2016
Copyright Disclaimer : This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. It is reproduced here with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan. The definitive, published version of record is available here: and
Uncontrolled Keywords : Secret Cinema, paradox of secrecy, theatre marketing, immersive theatre, immersive experience, spectacular secrecy
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 27 Jan 2016 15:00
Last Modified : 15 Jul 2019 02:08

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800