Being asked to sign a waiver before roaming through a decrepit building—with the promise of my worst supernatural fears coming to life—didn’t exactly inspire a great deal of confidence within me.
Located at the spine-chilling old Girls School in East Perth and directed by Danielle Harvey, A Midnight Visit brings to life the story of a school girl, and her burgeoning infatuation with the gothic tales of the literary horror legend, Edgar Allen Poe. This Fringe World show is an immersive theatre experience, whereby the audience is enveloped into the world of the play, no longer acting as mere spectators, but as willing participants of the story.
Now, I’d like to think I’m a calm and rational person (though my psychologist would say otherwise) but I can honestly admit I conjured up enough anxiety to last me through the whole bloody ordeal.
The experience began as I climbed up the stairs, slapped on a wristband and handed over my belongings. Lining up like lambs to the slaughter we were handed face masks, a needed precaution due to an unfortunate outbreak of tuberculosis—gulp. After a quiet prayer and a second vodka-soda, we were debriefed by a terrifying suited man, and in groups of two we were then directed up a flight of stairs by a hideously grim figure dressed in black, her face obscured by a long sheer veil. At this point, I asked the woman ahead of me if—when necessary—it would be alright if I used her body as a shield.
Unfortunately, she said no.
One of the scenes had already begun when my group entered the first room. I was instantly struck by the meticulous detail of the set: a Victorian style bedroom with antique furnishings. Audience members huddled around a large bed as an actor in a corseted gown delivered her lines. We were immediately brought into the action, and I was surprised with the effective and intimate use of space. The actors pushed and shoved through the audience, as if we too, were lost spirits wandering through the halls. Once the scene had unfolded, the audience was left to rifle through the room, digging through draws and finding secret messages hidden in books.
Pulled right out of the early nineteenth century, the major sets and dream-like rooms were reminiscent of the works of Tim Burton or David Lynch. While one room was webbed with hundreds of threads and adorned with handwritten notes on strings, another was full of haunting paintings of the young [Poe-obsessed] girl. I can only imagine how long this would have taken to arrange. Each prop scattered throughout the school aimed to deliver hidden clues about the characters who resided inside.
The lighting – or the lack-there-of – amplified tensions, adding to the surreal world of the performance. Each hall was draped with thick black curtains, or sometimes completely submerged in darkness. This was another clever technique utilised to build a healthy amount of paranoia: one moment you could be standing next to another audience member, the next you’re looking into dead eyes, or a strange creature in a mask.
All kinds of deranged characters stalked through the school, even the young, neurotic Poe himself made an appearance. They grazed past you, touched you, and whispered dark confessions into your ear. The audiences journeyed through on their own accord, climbing and crawling through tight spaces, and in my case, nearly drowning in a ball pit (don’t ask). As the night came to a close, I found myself dancing with a ghost draped in a bloody white dress. Did I mention we were in a gymnasium that looked like the fiery depths of hell? I know this might sound awful—but it was actually a hoot.
All-in-all, A Midnight Visit was a very unique and exciting experience. There’s so much to explore so I would recommend walking through twice, even if only to check for secret rooms you may have missed. I will say, however, that for $70 a ticket, a few more scares would have been appreciated. It wasn’t quite as tormenting as I had prepared, but in my case that was probably a good thing. If you’re a bit of a wuss, this is definitely an experience best shared with a few buddies—otherwise I’d advise calling on those with anxiety if you’re keen for a laugh.
A Midnight Visit will be terrorising all who dare enter until the 3rd of March. You can purchase tickets through the Fringe World website at https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/a-midnight-visit-fw2019