I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
The doctor is in
How far would you go to seek out eternal life and to rid yourself of disease? Would you sacrifice your sanity to get there? These are all questions pertinent to bAKEHOUSE's exciting immersive theatre piece, Visiting Hours.
Audiences are welcomed as inpatients to an off-grid, old world, sanitorium by a slightly demented nurse, conjuring up images of American Horror Story's second season - Asylum. After being introduced to the premise of the experience, we're led into the labyrinth of the Kings Cross Hotel's many rooms and levels searching for a cure to an unmentionable illness or an escape.
The nurse welcomes you to the sanitorium / Photographer: Clare Hawley / Asparay Photographics
Arguably the most famous piece of theatre in recent years made in this immersive style is UK company Punchdrunk's Macbeth-inspired Sleep No More, which is still running after 11 odd years in New York City. Visiting Hours certainly captures a similar essence to this famous piece of performance art in the first couple of rooms with a wicked, erratic and exciting opening that leaves us wondering what on earth we've gotten ourselves into.
As the piece went on, however, it lacked a little in the plot department. Although it never ceases to be entertaining, the mysterious build up to finally meeting the infamous doctor who is responsible for this whole operation is rather lacklustre and whilst in the first couple of rooms it feels as if we're part of the show, once the doctor is revealed, we instead are relegated to spectators. If the momentum of the opening 3 rooms could be retained for the final 3 moments, then this would be a dynamite production.
Medicine Time / Photographer: Clare Hawley / Asparay Photographics
Full credit must be given to the team at bAKEHOUSE Theatre with John Harrison and Michael Dean at the helm, for having the vision to put something of this magnitude together. The staging of a performance in a single space is challenging enough, so I can only imagine the coordination, challenges and many many hours of rehearsal it must have taken to get Visiting Hours off the ground.
The production design by Anna Gardiner is gorgeous in the more vintage settings, but it does get a little jarring walking from a very stylised old-school hospital look and feel to a very modern, sterile environment using plastic to cover the walls. Lighting by Benjamin Brockman is impressively used in each scene, particularly the greenish, sickly feeling created by his design in the opening couple of scenes.
Fun and energetic performances are delivered by the entire cast made up of Arisa Yura, Cheyne Fynn, Derbail Kinsella, Elijah Williams, Emma White, Heather Prowse, Jasper Garner Gore, Jim McCrudden, Joshua McElroy, Katherine Shearer, Keiren Brereton, Kianah Marlena, Laura Djanegara, Mansoor Noor, Monica Sayers, Nicole Wineberg, Rebecca Claire Moret, Richard Hilliar, Rose Costi, Sarah Evans, Sheila Kumar, Suz Mawer, Tara Clark, Tom McCracken and Yannick Lawry. The large ensemble play nurses, doctors, surgeons and orderlies around the sanitorium and each of them toys with their audience with wicked delight.
Visiting Hours is more of an experience than it is a play. It's unique, unusual and unlike any theatre production you've seen before. It's not a perfect piece and there are still things that could be tidied up and tweaked, but overall it makes for a thrilling night out.
Unfortunately, if you haven't managed to score yourself a ticket, then you'll have to pop your name on the waiting list as the entire season is completely sold out.