The Dunstan Creek Séance. Presented by The Forge at The Court Theatre. Director Daniel Pengelly. Dramaturgy Allison Horsley. 16 April – 7 May, 2016. Reviewed by Kineta Knight Booker.
Complete with a silent protester outside (“Séance = Satan”) and the show’s tagline “Keep telling yourself it isn’t real”, already there was an atmosphere of tension on the cold, dark night even before the show began.
As you walk through the doors, old, spooky photos line the hallway into the theatre. The show is introduced by The Court’s associate director, Daniel Pengelly, as a presentation by Suzanne and Arthur Bishop and a look at their latest book Ghosts of the Goldrush: Hauntings of Central Otago. Pengelly mentions the book is available for purchase at the Box Office after the show which makes you question whether this whole thing is in fact real.
We meet Suzanne and Arthur (Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman) who start a lecture like any other – Arthur with his notecards, Suzanne running the slides. However, the presentation takes an unplanned turn.
It’s the first time the notable occultists have appeared in public following the events of the Dunstan Creek séance – an infamous experiment that lost them their jobs after putting a young woman in hospital. With this lecture, the Bishops have returned to explain what really happened at Dunstan Creek, but it seems the presence unleashed is not yet ready to rest.
When lost in the drama of the performance, gripped by the unfolding story, as Suzanne and Arthur go in and out of character between themselves and a couple from the goldrush era (Rose and Ben), it becomes somewhat spooky and downright scary.
With the haunting music, atmospheric lighting (Sean Hawkins), trickery I’m still trying to figure out, and coupled with the paranormal content, this is certainly the scariest piece of theatre I’ve witnessed. Sitting frozen in my seat, my heart beating faster and faster, I held tight to my breath in case a scream escaped my mouth. In all honestly I’ve never felt so relieved for a show to finish which is an absolute credit to Tollemache and Ladderman.
It’s certainly a performance not to be missed, but be warned – show contains paranormal activity and is not suitable for those with a nervous disposition.