views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Saturday Night Fever
The Old Vic Tunnels
12th July 2012


Outside the the Old Vic Tunnels

After a week of heavy on-off rain, with Hit Factory in Hyde Park and the East Barnet Festival both casualties of the bad weather, we had our sights set on a fun night out firmly under cover. Having not seen Saturday Night Fever in years, we jumped at the opportunity to check out a classic film in a unique venue, with plenty of dancing, music and American diner-style snacks.

Finding the Old Vic Tunnels was not the easiest of tasks, but that was largely due to not reading the directions provided by the organisers and instead adopting the not-so-brilliant strategy of stomping around near the Old Vic in the pouring rain, expecting the Tunnels to somehow jump out at us. They didn't. Do your homework before setting off.

Roast-your-own marshmallows

When we finally arrived, we were welcomed by warm, friendly staff with sparkly waistcoasts and faux New York accents. The venue was very dark, but when our eyes adjusted, we wandered around and found a 'pawn shop' cloakroom, hot dog cart, a 'hobo' selling marshmallows, a candy stall, a pizza stand and a well-stocked bar. The prices weren't particularly cheap, but we couldn't resist taking hotdogs and fizzy pop into the film and certainly weren't the only ones with that idea. We were tempted by the popcorn seller inside, but wanted to save some room for marshmallows after the film.

With most guests having seen the film before, they were relaxed about taking their seats on time and there was still a steady trickle of incomers 30 minutes into the screening. There was a laid-back atmosphere with low level chatter, plenty of laughter and people regularly going out to refill their glasses at the bar next door. This is obviously something that usually infuriates us, but here it was all in good fun. Although few had bothered to adhere to the optional disco dress code, the audience was certainly appreciative of the movie, frequently laughing at jokes before their delivery had finished unfolding onscreen.

Now 35 years old, Saturday Night Fever tells the story of a young man called Tony Manero (John Travolta) who escapes from his dead-end job and meaningless relationships through dedicating himself to disco. When Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney) reluctantly agrees to partner him in a dance contest, all Tony wants to do is win, but comes to realise there are more important things in life.

On the dance floor

It is definitely a film of its time, with casual racism and swearing peppered through the script. Gritty topics like rape and abortion are glossed over, but the main themes of relationships and growing up are explored in more detail and help keep the film relatable today.

John Travolta's dance moves make the film worth rewatching from a visual perspective alone. His rhythm, seemingless endless energy and sheer confidence are all spectacular to see.

With disco dancing (watch or participate, it's your call) and pole dancing (probably don't try this in public) carrying on after the show, the night at the Old Vic Tunnels lived up to its promise of an immersive experience rather than simply a screening of an old movie. The venue may not be as well-known as its sister theatres, but it's an edgy little place and makes the perfect setting for a 70s night like this.

Saturday Night Fever ran from 11th to 21st July 2012.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee)

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