Finally, the show shifts gear to recreate the story of Rose McKendry and Ben Hunt, of the infamous Vulcan Hotel. We are informed “this is the acting bit” and they recreate the story for us accents, and reconstructed hotel set (donated by the Court Theatre) included. Things start to derail in a controlled and exciting way and the show concludes with a truly tense and eerie experience. The performers masterfully create and hold tension throughout the show, inevitably getting a glorious mix of laughter and fear from their audience when that tension is broken.
The technical aspects of the show are very strong.. The recreated set is accurate and believable, and the ebbs and flows of the show are ably assisted by movement of the stage-pieces (silently and mysteriously stage managed by Stevie Hancox-Monk) and by the lighting designed by Molloy. Molloy must also be given special props for the sound design on this show. Music and SFX sneak in and out of the soundscape of Dunstan Creek Haunting to great effect, and often add to the tension without making itself known, the mark of thoughtful and well executed design.
If I have any criticism of this piece of theatre, it is that it all feels very far away. Because the early slideshow presentation happens in front of the set, I never truly felt ‘in the room’ in the remainder of the show, there was too much dead space between us and the action. I can’t help feeling that a more intimate venue, or perhaps more intimate staging such as in the round or traverse may have brought us deeper into the piece. I would also have loved a better view of the audience. The collision of impulse to laugh or to scream was such a wonderful part of the show, I would have loved to be able to share this with my fellow audience members in a more intimate way.
This seems to be a year of immersive horror in Wellington, with theatrical offerings in this genre abundant in 2019, and I must say that this is my favourite of them so far. Intriguing, tense, and masterfully performed, it’s a show which is sure to bring laughs and screams to audiences all season long!
Rollicking Entertainment’s The Dunstan Creek Haunting runs at Circa Theatre until July 20, alongside their children’s show ‘Bathtime Bubbles: a Magical Adventure’. Visit the Circa Website for more info and to book your tickets.