This summer, Vancouver audiences will have an opportunity to explore an immersive 19th-century Victorian world as Third Wheel Productions opens Deep Into Darkness at The Cultch.
Taking place across three floors and twenty rooms inside 30,000 square foot of the East Vancouver cultural venue, the ambitious theatrical experience invites audiences to roam and follow fifteen characters inspired by the work and life of Edgar Allan Poe.
We find out more in this Q&A with co-creators Laura Carly Miller and Sydney Doberstein.
This interview has been edited.
Tell us about Deep Into Darkness. What can audiences expect?
Deep Into Darkness is an immersive production where audiences are placed into the performance, shattering the ‘fourth wall’ and other traditional theatre customs. Audience members can follow characters throughout the show, within the three-stories of The Cultch, transporting them into Edgar Allan Poe’s mind.
People can expect seeing a style of theatre rarely seen in Vancouver and enough rooms to spend many performances exploring.
You mention the New York production of Sleep No More as an inspiration. What was it about that particular show that got you excited?
Sleep No More is such a departure from traditional theatre. We loved that audiences could choose who to follow, where to go, and find interesting things in hidden nooks and crannies of the building. We wanted to bring something big to Vancouver and The Cultch was the perfect venue for that because of the amount of spaces we could use for our characters and bring them to life.
Why did you choose Edgar Allan Poe as the basis for the show?
We all know Edgar Allan Poe in some shape or form and his work has permeated many aspects of storytelling, including the very first detective story even before Sherlock Holmes was Sherlock Holmes. The rich content is just begging for people to dive into and we thought there would be countless opportunities for us to explore characters from his most popular stories, and the real people from his life.
Not to mention that Poe was a writer who spent his professional career dealing with themes of madness and loss and death, and even his own death has been shrouded in mystery for so long.
The potential for artistic exploration is endless, especially in immersive theatre.
Did you have The Cultch in mind when you started creating the show?
Since immersive theatre is so site-specific, we had to commit to a venue first. So, getting The Cultch on board was one of the first things we did once we knew we wanted to produce this type of show. Since each of the characters has scenes throughout the building, the script was written based on the spaces available to us.
Do audiences follow a linear story or are they free to encounter different scenes on their own throughout the venue?
In simple terms, audiences are free. They are free to explore different scenes in different rooms, explore rooms with no one in them or follow one specific character for the whole show from beginning to end.
Is there an element of audience interaction?
There are elements of audience interaction, but they aren’t required. We operate from a principle that actors may invite interactions with audience members, without forcing them to participate. Audience members will be given masks to wear for the duration of the show to further add to the immersive experience that have created for them.
How much of Deep Into Darkness is scripted?
This immersive theatre show has a foundation of time-based scenes and choreography throughout the spaces. However, there are many elements of improvisation.
In terms of dialogue, it’s about 10% dialogue and 90% choreography, movement and silent performance.
What has been the biggest challenge in putting Deep Into Darkness together?
Managing the scale of the props, set pieces and storylines. With fifteen storylines and 20+ rooms, logistics become a challenge that only a full team can overcome. Luckily, we’ve assembled an award-winning team with the commitment and drive to make this show the best it can be.
What do you hope an audience walks away thinking about after the show?
We hope audiences walk away with an emotional connection to Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and life experiences. We also hope audiences feel inspired and excited by the possibility of immersive experiences. Performance can be closer than a stage and audiences can do more than sit in a seat, they can be part of the experience and do more than they ever thought possible.
Deep Into Darkness opens August 13 and continues through August 25 at The Cultch (1895 Venables St, Vancouver). Visit deepintodarkness.com for tickets and information.