We’ve all heard things that go bump in the night, and the majority of the time it is simply our imagination. But what happens when those bumps turn into a never-ending nightmare? That’s what Mel Walker and her two children find themselves facing after they move home following the death of her husband and father to Levi and Rachel. Presented by Bass Fam Creative, this second installment in a trilogy of works focusing on love, Mansion is an immersive dance theatre horror experience that explores what it means to love, grieve and mourn.
This site specific work has sourced the perfect location for Mansion: Labassa Mansion in Caulfield. Built in the 1800s, the Victorian era mansion has had over 135 people call it home, and at one point it was divided up into flats and housed Hollywood’s first Australian silent film star. There are countless stories to be told, and not just from the living. The dead have plenty left to say and through dance and circus, the family encounter – and are terrorised by - its previous inhabitants. We are guided by the ground's Caretaker, who leads us from room to room in this winding and maze-like property as everything starts to unravel.
The captivating choreography and dance sequences successfully convey the Walkers' emotions and thoughts. Skylar Delphinus (Mel) captures the devastation of losing a partner and allows her body to be consumed by this in her movements. Similarly, her performance with Timmy J Hickey as her deceased husband is exciting, dangerous and deadly to watch. The upstairs hallways dance act with the five ghosts is well directed with the added touch of having its living residents walking past them as they go through their routines, unaware of the spirit world surrounding them.
It is when you look at the production as a piece of theatre that it begins to falter. The biggest issue with the story is that we are spoonfed all the information we need to know rather than having it be shown to us. At the beginning of the experience, an audio recording from our narrator informs us of the ghosts we are likely to meet, as well as telling us about the family that has moved in. The decision to have the minimal conversations in the show delivered via an audio recording and not use the performers is an odd choice, particularly as this dialogue would add so much more realism to the events.
There is a great deal of screaming in Mansion, with many of these coming from the cast than the audience. The ghosts are constantly popping out of dark corners and behind curtains letting out blood-curling screams as they tun towards us. While a small number of the attendees seemed to be consistently frightened by their presence (there are brilliantly disgusting masks being worn), after a few scares they become part of the furniture and elicit no reaction from most people.
If you’re looking for an evening of dynamic dance and circus that is unlike anything you have seen before, then Mansion is the show for you. There is an impressive amount of talent on display and the re-imagining of popular songs into darker versions is highly entertaining. However, if your desire is for a narrative that will crawl under your skin and cause you to hold your breath from fear, then like the Walker family, you may want to reconsider visiting this house.
Mansion, 2 Manor Grove, Caulfield North
Season: until 3 November | Wed - Fri 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, Sat - Sun 3pm, 5pm and 7pm
Tickets: $99 plus booking fee
Photo Credit: Ben Vella