BWW REVIEW: A MIDNIGHT VISIT Immerses Visitors Into Edgar Allen Poe's Mysterious And Macabre World
Wednesday 10th October, 2018, 7:30pm
New Australian immersive theatre experience, A MIDNIGHT VISIT serves as an homage to the works of Edgar Allen Poe as the audience is drawn into his dark Victorian world of death, disease and dangerous creatures. Created by Kirsten Siddle, Danielle Harvey and Simon Hayward, this work that has taken over a disused furniture store is Sydney's answer to New York's famous SLEEP NO MORE.
After signing a somewhat questionable legal waiver that seemingly absolves the producers of any and all liability whilst at the event, A MIDNIGHT VISIT welcomes 'mourners' in as they 'grieve' an unknown death. Immediately de-identified with a black surgical mask, the audience is given a lengthy list of instructions and are then drawn/instructed to enter into Poe's world. Using excepts from Poe's short stories and poems the 9 performers ( Megan Drury, Caitlin Drysdale, Bri Emrich, Drew Fairley, Jonny Hawkins, Bobbie-Jean Henning, James Raggatt, Hannah Raven and Jason Winston) bring to life both Poe's life and his stories. The performers separate the crowd, pluck off individuals and loom in corners causing the more anxious to keep checking their surroundings as they are left relatively free to explore the spaces that cover two floors of the disused warehouse space.
Whilst for those who are more susceptible to suggestion the separation from friends along with the pre-show warnings can cause heightened anxiety levels, the reality is that the experience is set out in a broad space with interaction on the light side of immersive entertainment. Rooms within the staging are wonderfully detailed (Design by Loren Bell, Jess Jacob and Michael O'Connor) but black curtained wide corridors tend to take the audience out of Poe's world as they move between 'scenes' and unless you have a fair idea of Poe's works the spaces may have you puzzled as to their meaning. With a small cast to 'guide' the audience or draw them in to experiences and so many spaces is often unclear what the audience should do leading to large groups migrating together and trying to squeeze into small spaces together or simply wandering aimlessly. Occasionally individuals are plucked from the gathering for an individual experience which turns out to be short lived, (my guest was plucked from my side only to be deposited into another room with little to no tailored experience before the crowd quickly followed) but for the most part the work doesn't really connect.
Raggatt, as Poe delivers some wonderfully measured monologues as he gives the audience an insight into Poe's life. Henning as Virginia, Poe's young wife and cousin who died of turberculosis, or consumption as it was then known, is also captivating as a peaceful, if blood soaked, bride. Drysdale as The Black Cat and Hawkins as The Raven loom in corners and also deliver a passionate tango through the corridors. Emrich delivers the madness of Madeline Usher along with acrobatics which unfortunately goes relatively unnoticed as she twists and turns down a corridor whilst the focus of the masses shifts back to Virginia. Whilst Raggat, Henning and Raven, as Ligeia, deliver their monologues with an old world sound unfortunately Fairley makes no attempt to use his voice to perpetuate the story, presenting The King with a broad Australian tone that jars in contrast to the other characters.
A MIDNIGHT VISIT is an interesting concept but could do with some tightening and a larger cast to allow more intimate experiences.