“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
– Edgar Allan Poe
This line from Poe’s iconic poem The Raven seems a fitting introduction to Danielle Harvey and Kirsten Siddle’s remarkable fantasy experience, A Midnight Visit. Inspired by Poe’s work, this epic 34-room theatrical playground is part choose your own adventure, part performance, part sound world, and all absorbing. In short, it’s like nothing Melbourne has ever seen before.
Immersive, experiential work of scale the likes of A Midnight Visit are a rarity in Australia, and that’s exactly what drew Harvey and Siddle to the concept when they left their careers as curators to form their production company, Broad Encounters.
“We wanted our first project together to be bold, big and beguiling!”, says Harvey.
“A large scale immersive work was the most ambitious thing we could come up with.”
The pair explored themes for the project until, out of the blue, the idea came to use the granddaddy of gothic’s life and work as the foundation. Harvey says it was the perfect fit.
“Poe has written so many poems and stories that have then influenced many other works by other artists and thinkers that there was great source material to create the world of A Midnight Visit. And because he is a master of mystery and thrill, there was a lot left open for interpretation too, which enabled our dreamworld to be ever changing and complex. To be gothic and fantastical at the same time.”
“There was three months of development and research and everything the audience experiences connects to his stories and life, but you don’t need to know anything about him. The tropes of his work are well embedded in mystery, horror and fantasy genres. And, really, half the first season was a development, because until you get the audience in the room with this style of work, you’ve only got half the picture.”
Drawing from everything from steam punk to Stranger Things, Harvey has had a strong vision for the work from the outset. She says the tone, themes, and stories A Midnight Visit was designed to convey could only come to life through multi-disciplinary elements, so defining the needs of the work wasn’t difficult.
What was difficult, says Siddle, was describing the complexities of the production to collaborators, audiences, and the well over 100 creatives involved in putting it together.
“It’s been a huge team that has worked on this production, both at the outset and with each very different and individual realisation. In our marketing we ask audiences to have courage, to come with a curious mind and a brave soul, and this is what we have asked of our collaborating creatives as well.”
“Many of our collaborators have worked with either Danielle or myself (or both) in the past on previous productions and festivals, and they were people that we immediately identified as being up for the challenge of immersive and experiential theatre.”
The pair’s network has also led them down some unconventional avenues. For instance, the production’s sound designers Kpow Audio usually work in video games. Casting sessions are out of the ordinary too, with Harvey and Siddle seeking to tap into peoples’ unique skill sets in order to amplify what they do best and make it part of the experience.
A Midnight Visit arrives in Melbourne on July 30th after receiving sensational responses in Sydney and Perth.
“We’ve been really thrilled with the response and, I have to admit, there have been a few tears of relief!” says Siddle, who is excited to unveil the latest incarnation at the House of Usher in North Melbourne.
“I love watching the faces and hearing the chatter of audiences as they exit, eyes wide as dinner plates searching their friends out to unpack the things that happened, as they realise everyone has had a different experience and interpretation.”
A Midnight Visit runs July 30th to September 15th,
with sessions starting between 5pm and 7pm, Wednesday – Sunday nights.