Hackney’s Sutton House will be transformed into racoon-infested pit

A scene from the documentary, Grey Gardens

A scene from the documentary, Grey Gardens - Credit: Archant

Hackney’s oldest historic home will be transformed into a racoon-infested filthy flea pit this weekend, as the National Trust tries to shake off its fuddy-duddy image and opens its doors to an immersive, trashy cinematic experience.

The Maysles brothers who made the documentary, Grey Gardens, with Lil' Edie

The Maysles brothers who made the documentary, Grey Gardens, with Lil' Edie - Credit: Archant

Camp cinema club Amy Grimehouse is screening the cult documentary Grey Gardens in Sutton House - one of 10 properties in the capital owned by the trust, which through its London Project wants to shake off its rural image and the preconception it is out of touch with young people.

Sutton House, photo credit National Trust Images and Dennis Gilbert

Sutton House, photo credit National Trust Images and Dennis Gilbert - Credit: Archant

In a similar vein to the hugely popular Secret Cinema immersive cinema concept, Amy Grimehouse sees niche films, documentaries and books being brought to life - but without the mysterious element.

Alex and Mia who founded Amy Grimehouse

Alex and Mia who founded Amy Grimehouse - Credit: Archant

Events manager Alex Menace, who launched the concept with her girlfriend Mia Pollak three years ago, said the tack is “more cabaret, comedy and silly.”

The Amy Grimehouse team re-enacting Grey Gardens

The Amy Grimehouse team re-enacting Grey Gardens - Credit: Archant

People aren’t expected to sit quietly watch a film; instead die-hard fans, dressed as the characters, will sing and quote the whole way through.

Grey Gardens, a 1975 documentary by the Maysles brothers - about former US First Lady Jackie Onassis’ aunt and cousin who live in a decrepit Hamptons mansion - is prime material for the concept.

Reclusive socialites, the mother and daughter known as Big Edie and Little Edie, came into the public spotlight when the press exposed their filthy living conditions following an investigation by public health officials.

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“People really love the characters,” said Alex who lives in Stoke Newington.

“It’s almost going to be like Star Trek convention, but to celebrate two ladies who live in the Hamptons.

“There’s something so endearing about the pair of them, you know they shouldn’t be together, my take is that the mother really holds back the daughter, and everyone is gunning for Little Edie to break free of her mother.”

She continued: “I think she would have thrived, she was a society debutante and a great beauty, many men were infatuated with her but she was dragged back by her mother and they fell into poverty in this house.

“There’s something utterly charming about them, they are hilarious, and you are hard pushed not to completely fall for them but you can’t imagine living in a house that smelt so bad and was in a disgusting state.”

Alex has been hard at work collecting baked bean tins, mannequins, and stuffed racoons and cats to transform the 15th century mansion in Homerton High Street into the house condemned by public health officials.

“We are going to install fake rubbish, it’s going to be a raccoon-infested pit, but a nice clean one,” said Alex.

“There are little nods to the film people will hopefully appreciate.

“Grey Gardens is a big run down old house, which Sutton House certainly isn’t - but staging it in a place like that will add enormous value.”

Previous incarnations staged by Amy Grimehouse have seen people entering their own dogs in a canine show for Christopher Guest’s Best In Show, Grease 2, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and a day devoted to Cher.

“We end up with huge fans and it forms a nice community, we’ve seen groups of friends forming because they’ve met at a niche night,” said Alex, who is keen to clear up any confusion over the name Amy Grimehouse.

It was established well before singer Amy Winehouse’s death, but they have since received death threats and insults over the name which originates from double bill horror film screenings, nicknamed Grinderhouse in 50s America.

“We were dealing with fairly trashy cult films, so we called it Grimehouse, then someone said Amy Grimehouse and we thought that was fun,” said Alex.

“It’s not any mocking of Amy, we absolutely adored her and we always try and play one of her songs.”

The event takes place on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 May from 7.30pm – midnight.

On September 7 Amy Grimehouse will screen Nancy Mitford: A Portrait by her sisters.

For more information see www.amygrimehouse.com.