Malthouse Theatre are once again changing the game with their new show, Because The Night.
The unique immersive piece was devised by the Malthouse’s artistic team – Artistic Director and Co-CEO Matthew Lutton, and Resident Artists Kammara Bell-Wykes and Ra Chapman.
Because The Night was initially created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing social distancing and reduced capacity audiences. However, with Melbourne now operating at 100% audience capacity, it has transcended COVID-safe theatre and has become a unique immersive theatrical experience, never before seen at this scale in Australia.
A 70s era adaption of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Because The Night takes the central characters and launches them amidst an air of supernatural. Those who are familiar with the source text will still find the play refreshing, as the mystery of the disappearing Woodcutters is injected amidst the family dysfunction. The show features two rotating casts – Keegan Joyce (Cloudstreet, 2019) and Khisraw Jones-Shukoor as Hamlet, Jen Vuletic (My Dearworthy Darling, 2019) and Belinda McClory (Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.) as Gertrude, and Nicole Nabout (Good Muslim Boy, 2018) and Maria Theodorakis as the reimagined queen Claudia. The cast also features Tahlee Fereday (Blackie Blackie Brown, 2019) and Artemis Ioannides as Ophelia, Harvey Zielinski and Ras-Samuel Welda’abzgi (WEYA Ensemble) as Laertes, and Rodney Afif (Good Muslim Boy, 2018) and Syd Brisbane as Polonius.
Just 60 members are allowed into each session, and are required to don a large black cloak and strange rabbit-esque mask. This serves two functions – the first, to maintain anonymity within the audience, reducing distractions around the performing actors in each scene; and the second to add to the bizarre and ominous feel of the play.
The entire ground floor of the Malthouse Theatre has been transformed into an elaborate labyrinth, twisting and turning through both the stage and backstage spaces, even moving outside into the loading dock. Each room is immaculately dressed and unique in its layout (a credit to the design team of Dale Ferguson, Marg Horwell, and Matilda Woodroofe), and the audience move through spaces like an opulent bedroom, a strange costume shop, an abandoned playground, a surveillance room, and even several secret rooms that can only be found through exploration. Actors move through these spaces, performing short scenes and monologues, feeding viewers the mystery drip by drip. These spaces are also interactive, with the audience encouraged to touch, open, and move everything within the space. At times, it’s almost disorienting – there are so many rooms with so many clues scattered, that it’s a lot of information to take in at once. As a result, it feels like there are entire pieces of the puzzle that I overlooked on my journey, which simply encourages me to return once more to see what I may have missed.
Because The Night is a triumph: a brilliant theatrical gateway for the lesser experienced, and a thrilling exploit like no other for connoisseurs. Immersive theatre is rarely seen in Australia, let alone on this scale. Do not miss your chance to visit Elsinore before it disappears, taking its secrets with it.
Because The Night is currently playing to June 27.
For tickets and more information, visit The Malthouse website.