The Malthouse Theatre are making a spectacular return to Melbourne theatre with Because The Night.
A loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the immersive piece set to be the largest the country has ever seen. The entire ground floor of the Malthouse has been transformed into catacomb-esque tunnels and rooms, with audiences walked through the town of Elsinore to bear witness to the troubles the townspeople face. Depending on which path is taken, different stories will unfold.
Each viewing session only allows 60 audience members due to both COVID Safe restrictions and the nature of the theatre space. This also means that the show is performed twice on weeknights, with an additional Saturday matinee. As a result of this intensive performance schedule, the production is double cast.
In the role of Ophelia are Artemis Ioannides and Tahlee Fereday.
Artemis Ioannides is an actor, singer, writer and visual creative who works between Melbourne and Athens. Recent theatre credits include Pomona (Red Stitch), Taxithi (fortyfivedownstairs), Fallen (She Said), Salt (She Said) and Women in War (Arts Centre). Artemis’ screen credits include Wentworth (Foxtel), Secret Bridesmaids Business (Channel 7) and The Beautiful Lie (ABC). Artemis has been nominated for Best Female Performer at the 2014 Green Room Awards for Angry Sexx, Best Ensemble in 2019 for Pomona and Best Ensemble in 2016 for Taxithi.
Tahlee is a 2017 graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts. Before her studies she was based in Darwin, where she hosted ‘The Breakfast Show with Tahlee’ on Larrakia Radio 94.5FM. Tahlee’s theatre credits include Blackie Blackie Brown (Malthouse Theatre), Astroman (Melbourne Theatre Company), Fallen (She Said Theatre), Love (Dee&Cornelius), which toured to the Venice Biennale after its Melbourne season. As a First Nations and queer artist, Tahlee is an advocate for representation of minority voices on the mainstage.
With Because The Night opening next week, we had a chat with the pair about their experience working on such a unique and groundbreaking production.
How have your experiences of working on Because The Night differed from past productions?
Artemis: The rehearsal process in many ways hasn’t been too different. We’ve done extensive scene work, created characters and mapped emotional trajectories, as we would a traditional play. The big differences will come in performance. The immersive nature of the performance means we need to be ready for things to be different each night, depending on how our audience responds. We’ve prepared for that by doing role play games with unpredictable audience behaviours.
Tahlee: Because The Night has been a different experience to past productions because the audience has control over what they see depending on which characters they follow – if they even follow anyone at all. This means we can’t assume the audience has seen our previous scene. So how can we as actors carry the story of what has just happened with us, and share that storytelling with the audience when they may have just met the character in that moment.
What have you found most challenging about the format of the show?
Artemis: At the moment the complex technical elements seem like the most challenging, but I am sure they will soon become second nature.
Tahlee: I think the most challenging element for me is the constant outside awareness each actor has to have. Each time I arrive in a new room I think: have I entered the room in a way that allows the audience to comfortably enter the space? How close are the audience to me and what size room are we in – therefore what volume do I need? Is anyone blocking access to my prop? How long do I have in this space – did I run over time in the last room which means I have less time in this room? I do think that after we rehearse more with audiences these questions will become second nature and I will find confidence in the process and muscle memory will take over. I find the alertness the actors need really exciting, managing the balance of being present with your scene partner but also looking after the audience and yourself as the actor.
And what has been most exciting?
Artemis: One of the most exciting aspects of working in this format, is that as an actor you have the unique opportunity to have a continuous emotional journey. Moving through all these different spaces while following a linear trajectory is something you rarely get to experience as a performer. It is truly immersive for both audience and performer.
Tahlee: The most exciting element about this show for me is the intimacy the actors have with the audience. I really enjoy the non-hierarchal divide. Traditionally actors are on a stage and audience are seated, giving control to the actors. However, in Because The Night the audience have their own autonomy and are in control of what story they see unravel. If they want to leave a room mid scene, they can. I am really excited about having the audience so close because this puts us actors in a vulnerable position as there is nowhere to hide. Every part of our body is seen up close in every direction. Every decision we make can be examined by the audience at a microscopic level. This excites me because I think so much beauty comes in vulnerability.
Do you have any backstage secrets you can share about the process?
Artemis: One of the things I can say is that because of the complex geography of the playing space we have had to rehearse on a miniature mark up! Stage management provided us with a replica floor-plan we could physically move through to learn our tracks. Needless to say, I have had a map stuck on the back of my office door for months!
Tahlee: My backstage secret is to inhale way too much sugar before each run and deal with the sugar crash after
Why should people come and see the show?
Artemis: Because The Night will be an incredibly unique experience. I have been completely blown away with the world the Malthouse production team have created and with the incredible performances by my fellow actors. I have never experienced anything like this show and I am so excited to share it with Melbourne audiences.
Tahlee: Audiences should see Because The Night because it’s an exciting way to see theatre up close and personal. The creative team have done such a wonderful job creating the town of Elsinore. The visual design and soundscape will transport audiences to another world where they are invited to witness the love, betrayal and ancient history that has been hidden for too long.
Because The Night opens at The Malthouse Theatre on March 23.
For tickets and more information, visit The Malthouse website.