Skip to main content

REVIEW: A Midnight Visit

A Midnight Visit
Photo: Jeff Busby

You are welcomed into a funeral home. This feels right. It feels real. There’s a tension in the air, though. Mourners don’t know each other and don’t know what awaits them. Who has died? How did we all know deceased?

Everyone grieves in their own way and each audience member who attends A Midnight Visit will experience this dreamscape - inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe - uniquely. Three groups are ushered into the labyrinthine space through different entrances. And then we are left to our own devices to find our way through the maze.

The first room we came across was a bedroom, dimly lit, dark green walls, rich dark furniture and a four-poster bed. A woman stood at the end of the bed, singing mournfully. We briefly witnessed this performance and then, as the woman hurried away, we explored the bedroom.

A Midnight Visit is as much about the detail in the sets as it is in the experience of performance. You are immersed into this world and every photograph or painting can be studied; every letter read. “Look behind Eleanor” one piece of paper advised, but peering behind the photograph revealed nothing.
A Midnight Visit
Photo: Graham Denholm

Immersive theatre is performance art to a fault. You might get lucky to latch onto a narrative; follow one character throughout and perhaps you’ll get a sense of what they are going through. But mostly you watch these actors have moments. We saw exquisite pieces of performance; some clowning, a glimpse of circus, a compelling partial recitation of Poe’s poem “Nevermore”.

Or you can view it as a piece of art, a detailed moving sculpture that you interact with in the choices you make. How long will you stay in a room devoid of actors or anyone else just to appreciate the furniture or the typed reports or the penned missives to lost loves?

We spent a moment in a room filled with portraits of Annabel Lee, as Edgar Allan Poe recited parts of his last complete poem, about the death of a beautiful woman. We watched a jester give birth and nurse a rubber ball. And king turn into an orangutan – which we’d been warned about in one of the reports we’d read in the first room we stumbled into.

Immersive theatre is a tricky business, though. Dramaturgy of a traditional script is a difficult enough task, but to choreograph an experience from the moment an audience enters to the moment they wake up from their dream inside the space, that is a far trickier business. And that’s where A Midnight Visit fell down a bit for me; it was sometimes difficult to get around and there was a lack of a satisfying conclusion.

The show has the occasional thrill of crawling through a tunnel or disappearing into a magic wardrobe. Spaces filled with coloured streamers and others with black feathers hung from the ceiling. There is something exciting about one-on-one moments with characters, enjoying something only for us, that no one else can see. But I spent a lot of time in long corridors behind slow-moving people, waiting for others who were coming the other way or unable to get into rooms that were small and packed. Much of my visit felt like I had just missed a moment.

I have seen a lot of immersive theatre. Each and every time I had a memorable moment of connection and saw performances I will never forget – and that was true of this show as well. If you haven’t seen immersive theatre before, A Midnight’s Visit may tantalise you. If you choose a better path, you may find more unforgettable moments. I kept missing things and now I’ll never know if I missed a great show. You might still see one.


A Midnight Visit
Photo: Graham Denholm


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My Favourite Theatre of 2019

This year I saw some amazing theatre in Melbourne, as always, and I was lucky enough to visit London for the first time, where I saw some wonderful West End theatre and some really inventive off-West End and independent theatre.
The thing about the theatre in London is that is really seems to be working toward the ideal of diverse casting, even if behind-the-scenes (writers, directors) are still male-dominated. And it’s not just in reinventions of shows like Death of a Salesman, which was a mostly black cast; a lot of shows I saw there were female-focused with racially diverse casts.
That said, I did see a show that was ostensibly about race, which was all white.
I saw some shows again this year, which were as great as when I originally saw them, but they have been on previous year-end lists, so sorry to Hamilton, Muriel’s Wedding and Cock – you’re not on my list again this year.
The lists are in alphabetical order and links in titles to review where available.
TOP TEN 

All About Eve –…

REVIEW: Disinhibition by Christopher Bryant

Flick, known on Instagram as Flick.Eats, and George, known on Tumblr as Boyance, are social media influencers. Flick.Eats posts FODMAP recipes and Boyance is living his best gay life online, but both are lies – constructions of the kind of personalities that get likes and shares and re-blogs. When Microsoft releases a new artificial intelligence bot onto Twitter – Tay, whose followers are #TaysTeam – the world of fake online personas gets trickier to navigate.
Who are Flick and George, really? Do they even know anymore?
Disinhibition plunges the audience right into the internet, the opening scene a perfect recreation of a Twitter interaction: someone posts a photo of their cute dog, lots of other users retweet it and someone @s the original poster, telling them their dog is prettier than they are. All social niceties are gone; people will say anything to each other online.
Presented by Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) and directed with a sure hand and clear intent by Artistic …

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return, the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago.
It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head.
Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did.
Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it.
Agent Cooper, the third part of this T…

REVIEW: Control by Keziah Warner – Red Stitch

The crew of a space ship, dressed in bold primary colours, rock from left to right in front of us, as they try to keep control of their craft. The group is racially diverse but it’s the white guy, a larrakin Aussie from Melbourne, who boldly steps forward to save the day. “It’s something I have to do.”

Keziah Warner’s Control, a science fiction triptych, begins with a scene of broad comedy, a nod to Star Trek and then jumps back in time to see how this crew ended up in such a dramatic situation. Starting a story in media res can be a pretty tired trope, but here Keziah uses it as a dramaturgical sleight-of-hand; this story is much more complicated than it first appears to be.
A pregnant woman, a puppeteer, a singer and a detective have been hand-picked to be on this space ship, leave Earth and strive to survive in “Fifteen Minutes on Mars” – a Big Brother-type reality show that is manoeuvring this ensemble toward interstellar cabin fever.
Twenty years later, in a library that promises…

Careful the things you say... Joe Wright’s HANNA & the combination of genres

Once upon a time... I tried to write a film script that melded noir and Grimm’s fairytales, where the femme fatale, clad in a slinky red dress, was also (in a way) Little Red Riding Hood. Where the lover of a hit man discovered his true identity from something hidden under his mattress. Evil (step)mothers, adopted children, hunters, princesses and family fortunes. Noir and fairytales have a lot in common and yet... I had real trouble finding the right tone for the piece. And, in the end, my script read too much like I was trying to get the concept to work, rather than telling a compelling story.

Joe Wright’s film HANNA, screenplay by Seth Lockhead and David Farr, finds the perfect balance between a high tension thriller and a fairytale coming-of-age story. And travels further into the story of this mysterious girl than the trailer suggests.
Going in, I was worried this might be too close to Leon or La Femme Nikita – the original films of which I throughly enjoyed, but would this new fil…

My Favourite Theatre of 2018

It’s that time of year again, when I look back over everything I saw on stage and put together a list of my favourite shows. I saw over 100 shows this year, mostly in Melbourne and a small number on one visit to Sydney.

I will link to reviews if I wrote one.
TOP TEN (alphabetical order)
The Almighty Sometimes – Griffin Theatre, Sydney
Kendall Feaver’s extraordinary debut play is about Anna, dealing with mood disorders and medication and the complicated relationship she has with the treatments and her mother. Superb cast and beautifully directed by Lee Lewis
Blackie Blackie Brown – Malthouse Theatre
Nakkiah Lui’s work is always amazing but this production, directed by Declan Green, was another step up for her – the satire sharper and bleaker and more hilarious than ever before.
Blasted – Malthouse Theatre
Sarah Kane’s debut play from 1990s London is a tricky beast tackling difficult subjects but Anne-Louise Sarks nailed it with a superb production.
The Bleeding Tree – Arts Centre Melbourne

REVIEW: SLUT by Patricia Cornelius

A man is dead, we’re told. A good man. A man with a job. Not a drunk. Not homeless. He’s a hero really. Just wanted to help Lolita and now he’s dead.
We’re told this story – this anecdote – by a trio of young women, friends of Lolita, who have known her from a very young age. In fact, there’s some question about who knew her better and who knew her the longest. Because the better they knew Lolita, the better they might understand her. And the more they understand her, the more righteously they can pass judgement.
Lolita was a carefree child. Used to love riding a bike. Ride it fast. Feel the ache in her legs and sweat on her face. All she had to worry about was staying on the bike and enjoying her lovely, lovely life. She stopped riding bikes when she was nine-years-old.
Her friends tell us that everything changed for Lolita when she turned eight and grew breasts. Huge ones. When she was eight years old. A child with breasts. And boys went into a frenzy. As did her grade five teacher…

REVIEW: This Bitter Earth by Chris Edwards – Midsumma

A young man sips a glass of wine, waiting for us to file into the theatre, while Kylie plays. As we settle in, he’s a long way from settled – nervous, anxious, eager to tell us about a dream he’s had. Even though he knows that when most people recount dreams, they are dead boring.
He’s a country boy who has moved to the big city – let’s call it Sydney – for university. He’s sleeping on his uncle’s couch and after being shown the expected touristy sites, he starts to explore the world by himself.
He’s gay and he’s never seen a penis other than his own. He’s drawn to a busker singing “My Heart Will Go On” and shaken up by two dude-bros shouting at gay couple kissing.
“Stop shoving it down our throats,” they shout, unaware of how unintentionally homoerotic they sound. The guy whose story we’ve been following, decides to follow them.
And this is just the start of the first vignette in a series of short moments by Chris Edwards exploring queer sex and relationships in this fantastical ga…

REVIEW: Chicago - The Musical

The real-life inspiration for the musical Chicago comes from nearly a century ago, when reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins reported on two unrelated court cases about women suspected and acquitted of murder. Watkins later wrote a satirical play about the attention both cases got, focusing on the media’s sensational headlines – something Watkins herself fed into.
The play became a silent film in 1927, a 1942 film named Roxie Hart (starring Ginger Rogers), and later the 1975 musical Chicago, for which husband and wife creative duo, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, struggled to get the rights to make throughout the sixties.
The original Broadway production opened to mixed reviews, as it was considered cynical and subversive – the opposite of what audiences wanted from musical theatre. But times change and this black satire about merry murderesses returned to Broadway in 1996 in a slick, pared-back production, directed by Walter Bobbie with choreography by Anne Reinking – “in the style of Bob Fos…

REVIEW: My Dearworthy Darling by Alison Croggon & The Rabble

A woman lies on a rock, writhing. She is in a state of ecstasy; part bliss and part religious fervour. She is listening and waiting for God. A man enters. He berates the woman for losing something of his. The tableau has turned from the epic to the domestic, a space that The Rabble have played with before, particularly in Joan, their deeply affecting exploration of Joan d’Arc and her lack of voice.
My Dearworthy Darling is a collaboration between The Rabble (Emma Valente, Kate Davis) and writer Alison Croggon, poet, novelist, librettist, critic and author of other texts for theatre. And it feels like the perfect fit.
The Rabble’s work is often inspired by well-known texts, though what they produce may simply echo, rhyme with or retaliate against stories we have heard or told ourselves. Frankenstein. Story of O. Orlando. Cain and Abel. All these works were as much about our histories with these texts as about the stories themselves.
Their work is created in collaboration with actors, d…