An immersive, choose-your-own-adventure, gothic experience
By Narelle Wood
A Midnight Visit is an immersive, choose-your-own-adventure experience inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Poe, famous for his dark and morose themes, both captures and plays with the human psyche, and it is this intent that Broad Encounters attempts to capture in their gothic house of madness.
The audience are free to move in and out of rooms at their discretion, literally choosing the way they experience the performance. Characters also move about, blending the boundaries between audience participation and voyeuristic experiences. Just as the characters and audiences move from room to room, so do the performances. But with the exception of Poe’s work there is seemingly little to no thread to connect the different vignettes together, the only indication that a performance is taking place is the sound of a monologue or singing floating down the long black corridors.
The performances I stumbled upon – John Marc Desengano’s Detective Dupin, Sarochinee Sawakghim’s the Black Cat and Bri Emrich’s Madeline Usher – were amazing, and I would have been happy to sit for the hour and take in their interpretations of the different gothic tales. While I’m sure I missed significant parts of the various performances on offer, Danielle Harvey (Production Director) and Kirsten Siddle’s (Production Creative Producer) attention to detail throughout this production is astonishing. The rooms, thanks also to Loren Bell (Design Manager) and her team, are performance pieces in and of themselves. Close attention reveals minute details, such as tealeaves in the shape of a raven at the bottom of a teacup, adding to the authenticity of this gothic fantasy world that Harvey and Siddle have produced. Layer on top of the visual aesthetic a haunting soundtrack of beating hearts with other atmospheric music and sounds, as well as detailed costumes and make-up, it is obvious that A Midnight Visit has been realised through the collaborative efforts of some extremely talented people.
I did leave disappointed though. I was frustrated that I had missed bits of the performances and confused about how it all came together; I admit though I do prefer theatre with a clear narrative thread. My main gripe wasn’t to do with the show, but the pre-show theatrics. We were asked to sign a waiver before entering, but any indication of this is buried deep in the last line of the Frequently Asked Questions on the website. This seemed like information that needed to be more upfront. We were also asked to wear facemasks and while I understand the aesthetic behind this, it was presented as a fait accompli despite some people’s discomfort. It was clear that the pre-show is designed to heighten the sense of anticipation, and that may have been at the root of my disappointment; I left wanting more.
If your idea of a night at the theatre revolves around voyeuristic comfort and a clear storyline, this is not for you. But the premise of A Midnight Visit is so different and interesting that I think it would be an absolute delight for anyone who desires to be immersed in the gothic brain of Edgar Allen Poe or for theatregoers who revel in a show specifically designed to push some boundaries.
Venue: House of Usher – Funeral Services, Melbourne
Season: Until 15th September
Tickets: From $62
Photography by Graham Denholm