In July, a strange visitor is coming to Melbourne. For six weeks, an empty North Melbourne warehouse will be transformed into A Midnight Visit, a 36-room, labyrinthine choose-your-own-adventure experience in the vein of critically acclaimed immersive theatre works such as New York’s Sleep No More.
Director Danielle Harvey says it’s based on the life and works of 19th-century gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe (for a typically blood-soaked slice of the macabre, read The Masque of the Red Death). Poe’s influence can be felt in everything from Stranger Things to the work of David Lynch, and A Midnight Visit takes it all on board and scatters it across a maze of characters and plots.
But Harvey is keen to point out it’s not all horror. “What’s special about this work is the personality,” she says. “It’s as scary as you make it. It’s also a little bit funny, a little bit sexy, a bit whimsical.”
“It’s about engaging people in creative play,” says Kirsten Siddle, the show’s creative producer. “We want the audience to have agency over their experience.”
There’ll be more than 10 hours of performance crammed into the warehouse, from horror to burlesque to comedy to high camp, brought together by over 100 creatives including actors, composers, builders and designers – but the audience will experience just 90 minutes of it in each viewing.
“We get a lot of repeated visits because you can’t see it all at once,” says Siddle. “No two experiences are the same. So, if you get separated from your friends, you’ll have an entirely different 90-minute experience to share with them in the bar at the end. That’s my favourite part, watching people come out at the end and stand around sharing the stories they experience.”
The Melbourne performance is the third iteration of A Midnight Visit, after running last year in a Sydney warehouse and a heritage-listed school in Perth. Even if you were lucky enough to experience those, this promises to be quite different – each new version brings a host of local artists and collaborators. Expect different rooms, different characters and different stories.
A Midnight Visit runs from July 30 to September 15 at an as-yet-undisclosed location.