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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Theatre review: Hidden is a fun and often creepy romp through the forest

Cheese is served with a liberal dose of creepy in this site-specific Halloween treat

Its concept is intriguing. The location is inspired. It even registers on the high end of the creep scale. If you’re like me though, you will wish Hidden had more true scares.

From a trailer park in Killer Joe, to the Roedde House in Debts, ITSAZOO Productions have become masters of the site-specific play in Vancouver. Amping up the locale for its latest outing, the team takes over the Greenheart Treewalk at the UBC Botanical Garden.

In Hidden, playwright Sebastian Archibald combines the cheesy with the creepy. The evening starts as we board a van on a tour with the crew of Murder With a View, a macabre tour group specializing in “real tours of true crimes”. This tour’s destination is the UBC grounds, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of an unsolved triple homicide.

As we make our way through rain slick streets to our destination, we are provided with some background on the grisly murders. Arriving at the UBC Treewalk, we are provided lanterns and ushered along the 310 metre aerial trail. The walkway becomes our vantage point for a reenactment of that fateful night. As we move among the trees, on the forest floor below, three actors portray the last moments of the victims. Along the way, things begin to take a bizarre turn as we discover not everything we are watching is part of a carefully planned reenactment.

With fear of spoiling too many surprises, suffice to say that, at times, Hidden is creepy as hell. That creep factor is especially prevalent as we abandon the relative safety of the walkway for the forest below.

With fear of spoiling too many surprises, suffice to say that, at times, Hidden is creepy as hell.

There is also a tension created that is unnerving, and you may very well find yourself casting your light into the darkness to illuminate potential threats, real or imagined. What you don’t get though are enough true scares.

(I do admit to screaming twice, but then I’m easily scared. The first time I’m still not convinced it was by design, and the second was only from being caught off guard by the radio suddenly coming to life in the van. I think I managed to frighten my fellow audience members more from my reaction, than anything happening as part of the show.)

While being on edge can be exhilarating, it can only sustain for so long. The best horror movies build tension, release it with a good fright, and repeat. Besides, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned scare. I wanted more of those moments. Lots more.

There is a satisfying sense of danger that is at times thrilling though, especially on the bridges that connect the platforms on the Treewalk. As the walkways sway in the dark, there is an urgency created that makes you want to get to the other side as quickly as possible. And even while it was difficult sometimes to judge the height of the bridges, the platforms from which we witness most of the action are another matter. The biggest sense of danger though was reserved for our ride back to our starting point, as our driver fiddled with the radio while navigating traffic.

While Archibald’s story is crystal clear in the reenactment of the murders, it does become muddled as it nears its conclusion. No doubt a result of trying to provide important information to an audience distracted as they navigate the dark and muddy woods, the truth behind what we just witnessed never quite lands.

The cast and crew of Hidden are fearless. Traipsing through the rain soaked woods night-after-night cannot be an easy task. This is particularly true for the trio of reenactment players: Georgia Beaty, Leslie DosRemedios, and Zac Scott. As our primary guide for the night, Brett Harris serves up a wonderful smorgasbord of cheese, and Shauna Griffin is a delightfully disinterested (albeit distracted) driver.

The epilogue, which arrives by email the following day is a nice touch, helping to explain the pieces originally missed during the finale. It also sets things up for another visit to the university woods next Halloween season.

At the time of writing this review, there were just a handful of tickets left for the show’s recently extended run. You better act fast or you’ll miss out. Even with a lack of real scares, Hidden is still a fun, and often creepy, romp through the forest.

Hidden by Sebastien Archibald. Conceived by Chelsea Haberlin, Sebastien Archibald and Colby Wilson. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin. An ITSAZOO Productions presentation at the UBC Botantical Garden. Visit for tickets and information.

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