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Poe show: Nine-hour theatre experience puts audience centre stage

Culture

A Midnight Visit is a gothic ‘immersive performance playground’ inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. No journey through the 36-room labyrinth is the same, as each audience member has one hour to journey through a potential nine hours of theatre within an abandoned Fortitude Valley warehouse.

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A Midnight Visit has been heralded as a ‘choose-your-own-adventure, part film-set, part performance, part sound-scape’ theatrical world based on the writing of Edgar Allan Poe.

Following sell-out performances in Melbourne and Sydney, the performance will bring Poe’s House of Usher to a disused warehouse in the heart of Fortitude Valley, with 36 rooms to explore.

Although the basis of the performance, director Kirsten Siddle is quick to point out that you don’t need to know Poe to enjoy the show.

“Poe was an amazing creative and writer and our spaces spin in all kinds of directions. It is a dream within a dream, there are a lot of fantasy spaces in there that are derived from ideas that are present in Edgar Allan Poe’s work,” she said.

“There are also spaces that feel like real world spaces that Edgar Allan Poe may have inhabited.”

Siddle said set design is constantly being reconfigured and changed, but some creative license has been taken with past iterations involving a giant neon pink ball pit, a full-sized Church, and a construction of the dining room from Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. 

The Actress (Image: Tim Da-Rin)

“There’s a lot of physical spaces to explore. People come in maybe with a group of friends or with a partner or something but they may take different routes,” she said.

“One may turn left and one may choose to turn right, when they go upstairs or downstairs, and they’ll see different things.”

Siddle said the dream-world ends at The Raven’s Rest, a gothic bar serving Poe-themed cocktails where participants can share their journey with one another.

“There is over nine hours of performance content in the piece, and it means that when you come out into the bar at the end for a cocktail, everyone has a different story.

“One of my favourite things to do is hang out in the bar and listen to people debrief about their experience and excitedly talk about where they have been.”

A Midnight Visit (Image: Iain Gillespie)

The performance is designed deliberately to give audiences agency over their experience, which Siddle said she had not seen properly explored in Australia’s theatre environment.

“I wanted to curate a space with elements of theatrical immersion. The audience is an integral part of the space and that has an electricity to it,” she said.

“Poe is a great subject for this because he was exploring ideas which represent the human condition and the emotions that he was exploring through his work were not just dark and gothic but also vivid, dreamlike, fantasy worlds.

“The work really is multi-tonal, sometimes it is hilarious, sometimes it is whimsical. It can be quite dark, or a little bit scary or spooky. But it’s also just fun and very playful so there’s a lot of unexpected surprises for the audience to experience.”

A Midnight Visit begins 27 July, for more information or tickets go to A Midnight Visit’s website. 

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