A Midnight Visit

 A Midnight Visit
Broad Encounters. At 222 Macauly Street, North Melbourne. 30 July - 13 October 2019

It’s a bit daunting and scary entering the A Midnight Visit space. But it is well worth taking the challenge of delving into the tortured life and macabre works of Edgar Allen Poe.  Brought to us from Perth and Sydney and presented by Broad Encounters, it’s a real treat to ‘suspend one’s disbelief’ and venture into the dark unknown.  

This installation in North Melbourne is a unique entrancing Victorian Gothic interactive experience, with more than a hint of Steampunk.  The atmosphere is rich and exotic and the performers true artisans.  It is engaging, dark, mysterious and haunting.  It feels like a tango with ‘the dark side.’ 

Maybe, to add an extra dimension to your journey, do a little research on Poe’s life and works before you leave home. 

For those who like to imbibe with the lure of cocktails for a little Dutch courage there is a bar – The Raven’s Rest.  When we enter the Funeral Parlour, the Undertaker, surrounded by lavish coffins, lets us all know he is ‘sorry for our loss’ as he issues us each with a black face mask and reminds us not to talk.  And surely these masks slow breathing slightly - to assist with creating the ambiance of a dream as well as protect us from TB as suggested.

As our guide lays down the rules he also ask us if we have any specific phobias, and chuckles. I feel like saying yes I’m a bit claustrophobic. And having been split from my plus 1 is proving unsettling.

Once inside, initially, claustrophobia almost overwhelms me, but I overcome this by venturing forward, albeit, with trepidation – through some pretty sticky places.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘the dream’.  I start to appreciate moving at my own pace, and relished taking small risks, such as venturing into a wardrobe or sitting, for the first time ever, in a confessional, or the thrill of dropping into a ball pit.  Some of my particular experiences were so unique as to be the only person in a room on two occasions, with performers, who are stunningly strutting their stuff – just for me!   

Things unfold gradually and what one experiences depends on where you venture and what you find and what holds your attention.  Apparently there are 36 locations.  There is a grand dining room, a marvelous sitting room, a hospital ward and a cemetery where Poe buried a number of family members prematurely.  Perhaps he could be forgiven for being maudlin. 

It’s tricky to know where you are in amongst all the dark velvet curtaining, and although I was more than satisfied with my overall experience I get the feeling I missed at least as much as I saw in the 90 minute time span.

Most particularly a feast for the eyes, but smell is involved and sound is often a highlight, including some catchy contemporary songs such as Elvis Costello’s marvelously intense obsessive ballad ‘I Want You.’

Poe is a bit of a mystery.  His death at 40 was premature and could have been from alcoholism.  At 23 he married his young cousin who was half his age.   There is also a sense of drug use and unhealthy attachments, obsession, madness and so much mysterious darkness and a wicked imagination.

There is memorabilia to purchase and although no photos can be taken on the journey, in the vestibule at the entrance is a photo opportunity of standing in front of a grand pair of black wings under flattering diffused lighting.

A unique and memorable event.

Suzanne Sandow

Credits

Creative Producer – Kirsten Siddle

Director – Danielle Harvey

Performers:  Stee Andrews, John Marc Desengano, Megan Drury, Hudson Emery, Bri Emrich, Bobbie Jean Henning, Andy Johnston, Cameron MacDonald, Hannah Raven, Kristian Santic and Sarochinee Sawakchim.

Photographer: Jeff Busby

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