Mansion – The Experience Review By Kristen Iliopoulos
As Halloween approaches, little seems more appropriate than a visit to see Mansion, the new immersive theatre experience combining contemporary dance, ballet, burlesque, circus arts, and aerial acts, presented by Bass Fam Creative.
Mansion follows recently widowed, Mel Walker, played by the stunning Skylar Delphinus, her son, Levi, and her daughter, Rachel, played respectively by the energetic duo, Lukas White and Shona Guiry, as they move into the mansion and are met with nightmarish hauntings of the paranormal in a journey towards dealing with their grief over the loss of their husband and father, Mark, played by Timmy J Hickey. The atmosphere of the Labassa Mansion, an outstanding palace that lies nestled in an unsuspecting suburban street in Caulfield North, is second to none, providing the show’s perfectly balanced setting of creepy and grand.
Utilizing different styles of dance, circus arts, voiceover narration, and covers of popular songs to tell the story, the plot is surprisingly fairly easy to follow, as the caretaker leads the audience from one gorgeous room to another within the mansion, which itself is rumoured to be haunted. Bass G Fam, the quadruple threat behind Mansion, who acts as the audience’s guide, Mr. Emsworth, also wrote, produced, and directed the piece. While even the minimal narration in Mansion feels rather verbose, the performers’ bodies and movement appear to act as a more effective storyteller.
Mansion, although having its moments of jump scares, is not inherently scary, particularly for those who may be horror buffs. However, audience members with coulrophobia should be warned that there may be the appearance of a ghostly clown. Rather, the scariest moments in the show came from the performers, who willingly put their body on the line to perform stunts that could leave you cringing in hope that they wouldn’t fall. Of course, these artists were clearly fantastically trained in their field, and showed amazing skills of athleticism, balance, and body strength.
Each cast member excelled in their respective parts; with their detail and synchronicity creating breathtaking movements that developed the story. Sarochinee Saw’s performance as The Ballerina is particularly memorable, as she appears with a doll-like fragility that explodes into a childhood nightmare. The relationship between Levi, and Elizabelle, the alluring temptress in red, Natalie Smoel, also serves as a highlight of the show, allowing elements of a vintage romance – and in turn, heartbreak – to blossom within the mansion. Sean Higgins’ video projections on the walls of the mansion, recounting Elizabelle’s history, provide an enthralling visual aid to the story, although again, the length of the voiceover could have been lessened without hindering the delivery of the explanation. Another unforgettable scene involving circus artist, Antonia Sassine, flipping over a type of aerial hoop above the mansion’s old staircase is memory searing.
Given the close proximity of the performers to the audience, further care could have been taken on the performers’ wigs, which at times appeared sloppy, although overall, the performers were fitted into lovely historical and contemporary costumes, contrasting the often grotesque and demonic use of makeup, masks, and prosthetics. The use of music throughout the show at times worked well, and at times felt a bit too much of an unnecessary attempt to modernize the setting. There were also times where the sound of the voiceover narration and the vocals of the performers clashed, causing difficulty in hearing what was being said. The lighting design was appropriately haunting and illuminated the performers well, which in turn, enhanced the quality of the choreography.
It is perhaps best not to have any expectations when going in to see Mansion and to instead let the element of surprise guide you. With that said, for those who can appreciate the physical complexity of dance and circus arts, as well as the architectural beauty of the Labassa Mansion, a whimsical world of talent and awe awaits.