FRINGE REVIEW: A Midnight Visit is Madness Incarnate
Having travelled around Australia, transforming disused spaces into lucid wonderlands, A Midnight Visit has arrived in Perth thanks to Fringe World Festival and Broad Encounters.
This immersive, choose-your-own adventure theatre experience has you walking around the disused Girls School in East Perth. From the start you are immersed into the biographical and literary worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, experiencing his surrealist subconscious. A cast of 12 superb actors accompany you as you wander through the 34 room extravaganza, creating a unique experience for all involved.
Beginning the experience, you are told you are immersed in the dream-state of a young girl fascinated with the life and works of literary great, Edgar Allan Poe. Being given a surgical face mask to prevent the ‘outbreak of tuberculosis’ (which took his first wife at the age of 25), you are immediately thrust into the madness of Poe’s dream-state imagination. A rule of silence is enforced, as well as a ban from the use of mobile phones/taking pictures, forcing you to engage with this sensory wonderland. Each room and passage is created to attack your senses in someway or another, whether it’s by weird smells; a multitude of textures; wonderful and mystifying sights; or haunting sounds.
The experience for each of the guests is different, as the cast of actors (which include The Raven, The King, Roderick Usher, The Actress and Poe himself, among others) wandered through the halls, delivering monologues or one-on-one experiences, from which others cautiously looked on (I for one was tucked into a rather creepy looking hospital bed and given my ‘medication’ by a nightmarish nurse).
Being a choose-your-own-adventure style event, you can choose how you want to experience the night - whether that is exploring in groups, or soloing it alone for a more harrowing experience. Personally the whole thing felt like a bizarre social experiment. Given free roam, it was interesting to see everyone initially stayed in packs of safety and attempt things only after someone braver had. The actors did a marvellous job splitting us up however, creating distractions and pulling randoms from the pack, leaving the rest unsure of whether to follow or continue with those left.
The weird and wonderful designs allow you to dig as deep as you want in the experience. You could spend hours searching through all the drawers, letters and finding the hidden rooms and passageways A Midnight Visit has to offer. Needless to say, the ball pit was a heap of fun!
The experience wasn’t as harrowingly frightening as expected, however it was a world of eerie and supernatural fun. The event caters to all. Those who are familiar with his works are thrilled by the references and pointers to his life, and those who enter clueless leave with enough education to understand, but also a longing hunger to learn more about his works, his life and the madness that made him him.
Having celebrated Poe’s 220th birthday less than a week ago, I can assure he would be proud of the detail and effort placed on this phenomenal night. Bravo to all involved, a fabulous night indeed!