An ambitious new immersive show from director Danielle Harvey is an exciting addition to the Sydney scene. A Midnight Visit may be something that Sydney audiences have never seen before, but it is undoubtedly something that every theatre goer should add to their calendar. If this show was about pushing the boundaries of an immersive space and bringing a new and innovative style of theatre to Sydney then this show, a collaboration between Broad Encounters Productions and Groundswell Productions absolutely achieved what they intended. Although at times the narrative became confusing and convoluted across the more than 30 different rooms, for the most part it was an experience that was completely captivating and absolutely absorbed the audience into the show.
Immediately after audience members entered the space they darted off in separate ways, desperate to find clues and to solve the puzzle. There are lots of hidden clues in different rooms and secrets that you can find from different characters. However, no matter how many clues you find or how much information you can pry from the cast members it doesn’t amount to much. The plot is exceptionally complex and difficult to follow.
The narrative roughly follows the story of the life of Edgar Allen Poe, with each character linking to either a person in his life or a character in one of his various novels or poems. Some of the characters are more whimsical metaphoric representations of themes explored through Poe’s works while others are directly related to his life, including his young sickly bride or his mother.
Director Harvey aimed to create the richness of character that Poe pours into his stories without necessarily giving too much information about their past or who they were. “Even without this information you felt the chill on your neck, smelt the dirt in your nose, saw the phantasms, the blood, knew the answer… Poe lets you fill in the blanks,” said Harvey. The sentiment of bringing together Poe’s life and the fictional world he created is ambitious, and at times this translated throughout the performancem but for audiences with limited information on Poe’s life or how the characters related, it became confusing and hard to follow.
What was the most impressive part about A Midnight Visit was the set. It transported audience members into a mystifying alternate reality of Edgar Allen Poe’s life. From the initial moments that you step into the space you will be a voyager on this exciting and at times scary journey. The labyrinthine space was comprised of rooms that had many different entrances and exits, which at times was dizzying as you couldn’t keep track of where you were.
If feeling lost was a theme that the show’s creators intended on evoking, then it was absolutely achieved. The space was a littered with rooms leading into each other and corridors that appeared to lead to no-where but that actually held hidden clues. It felt like the intricacy and confusion of the space was a metaphor for the storyline itself. A web of seemingly disconnected pieces that do fit together but in a somewhat disjointed and confusing way.
Each room was decorated impeccably, down to the most minuscule details, to immerse you into the time and alternate world that this story takes place. The space was used in a very interesting and engaging manner. With most of the characters drifting between different spaces at all times, there was often action going on in multiple different rooms so as the audience you got to dictate which characters you connected with and which narrative you wanted to follow.
That is one of the beautiful things about immersive theatre like this; it allows each audience member to have a very individual experience, even though they’re watching the same show at the same time. No two experiences will ever be the same and that is why A Midnight Visit is a fantastic show to go and see with your friends or on your own. It gives you an opportunity to try and solve the mystery as a group or to be a solo voyager in this incredible journey.
The show is weird but it embraces its craziness with confidence, and nothing is ever done half-heartedly. There are rooms that are filled with just stuffed toys and hidden man holes that you can crawl through and a giant ball pit. Sometimes it doesn’t really make sense why they’re all there and it seems a little gratuitous, but either way it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Some of the most beautiful moments were ones when the characters interacted with each other. It gave more of an insight into their character and while the set was impressive to look at, the characters’ interactions were engaging, compelling and intriguing to watch. This was especially poignant when the characters showed weakness or vulnerability, as it evoked curiosity in the audience and raised more questions.
Don’t be afraid to let the characters take you on your own journey. While at times this may feel intimidating or even a little scary, the payoff is great. An individual experience with these talented actors may lead you to have an individual contortion show from the wonderful black cat (Caitlin Drysdale) or given secret letters by Virginia (Bobbie-Jean Hemming).
However, once you came to terms with the grandeur and impressiveness of the set you will begin to start looking deeper into the narrative and searching for more information. Naturally, given how exceptional the setting and costumes are, you will want to know more.
It was only after the show (which some extra research) that I was able to truly understand how the characters linked and the richness of the plot. But if that is something that you were intending to gain from the performance itself, you may be left feeling disappointed.
That being said, this show is a once in a life time opportunity. A Midnight Visit absolutely takes immersive theatre to the next level and does things that I didn’t even think were possible. If you’ve never seen an immersive show before, this is the one to see and if you have seen some immersive theatre, A Midnight Visit is nothing like you’ve ever experienced.