Review: Eve of St George (Transcen|Dance Project)

Eve of St George returns to entrance Toronto audiences with an immersive take on Dracula

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to witness Eve of St George, playing now at The Great Hall, ever since Wayne reviewed it back in 2015. The idea that they’ve taken¬†Dracula, one of my all time favorite stories, and placed it into an immersive and interactive dance-fueled performance on multiple levels throughout the venue seemed so dazzling and sumptuous that I knew I had to see this for myself.

Eve of St George takes over most of the space throughout the Great Hall and guests are free to weave in and around the spaces and performers, absorbing the impact of the show in a multi-sensory immersive experience. Read the letters from Mina Murray to Jonathan Harker, page through the books of vampire lore on Van Helsing’s desk. Let Dracula himself take you by the hand and lead you away.

The performance is a theatrical dance production and much of the story is told through carefully choreographed movement with minimal dialogue. Director and choreographer Julia Cratchley has done a sublime job with the recreation of this story through movement that is both mesmerizing and sensual.

The dancers pour their heart and souls into the movement and their characters. In particular, I loved watching Madeline Wright, Kathleen Legassick, and Martha Hart as the Brides of Dracula. Their movements are seductive and sensual, beautiful on their own but remarkable as a trio that move as one cohesive being. Their dance with Dracula (Jack Rennie) is breathtaking as is their dance that involves a single sheet of fabric covering their breasts at the same time.

I also love watching Matthew Kazmierczak and Kelly Shaw as Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray, their lifts and fluidity in their movements and their deep connection as lovers is gorgeous. Rennie as Dracula is dark and smoldering while Tori Mehaffey as Lucy Westenra is downright haunting.

The staging and care to detail within the sets is just as stunning. Accolades to set and lighting designer Jennifer Goodman who has outdone herself here. Her sets, in particular with Van Helsing’s chambers and the crypt in the basement, are just incredible.

My only disappointment with the whole experience is, I suppose, based in logistics. At the beginning of the show, guests are given a paper invite that reveals where their adventure would begin. My invite told me to go upstairs to the balcony while my date for the evening, Vance, was told to stay on the main floor. Upstairs, I ended up watching most of the main narrative arc from the balcony play out on the main floor as did Vance did below me.

Different characters would drift in and out of the balcony area: a drunk Van Helsing, the caregiver Amelia, the creepy vampire children, Jonathan and Mina did a lovers’ dance just outside the door. No actual scene took place and I was beginning to wonder when events would pick up as we were given no prompt to leave the area. Finally, I did decide to wander back downstairs drawn to commotion in what turned out to be Van Helsing’s chambers and found a possessed Lucy being exorcised.

I feel that many people seeing a performance like this for the first time may not be clued in that guests are free to wander around the set right from the very beginning without prompt and that there really is something to experience in all rooms of the venue that aren’t locked. Vance said that if I hadn’t come around to find him, he would not have seen Van Helsing’s chambers or even the crypt and dungeon downstairs.

The initial instructions prior to the show hint at the mysteries lay ahead, aside from the suggestion for comfortable footwear is the note that all audience members are required to wear a masquerade mask throughout the performance. The standard performance would run around two hours as they do run through the story twice, giving guests a chance to experience various parts of the story at different times. As scenes throughout Eve of St George happen concurrently, experiencing the tale twice means being able to see what you may have missed during the first run.

Eve of St George takes the audience away from a seated, structured theatre and brings them right into the story as it unfolds. This is the kind of interactive and immersive theatre that I love and would highly suggest everyone experience. The tale is powerfully performed and beautifully told and I assure you that you will love it.

Details:

  • Eve of St George is playing at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West at Dovercourt Road) until January 27 2019.
  • Performances run January 18 – 20 at 7:00 pm with a special late night performance on January 19 at 10:15 pm and January 24 – 27 at 7:00 pm with a late night performance on January 26 at 10:15 pm.
  • Tickets are $60 + $13.08 fee + GST/HST general admission or $90 + $19.03 fee + GST/PST for VIP (a VIP ticket includes priority entrance, complimentary coat check and glass of champagne at the bar, as well as a signed program by the cast.)
  • Tickets can be purchased online.
  • Audience Advisory:¬†Guests are asked to wear a mask throughout the performance and therefore it is recommended to wear contact lenses rather than glasses if possible. Comfortable shoes are recommended as this is a standing performance. This is an immersive and interactive experience but guests are encouraged to interact at their own level of comfort. Some scenes may be disturbing to some, viewer discretion is advised. The venue requires stairs to access various floors.

Photos of Matthew Kazmierczak and Kelly Shaw, and of Tori Mehaffey by Francesca Chudnoff

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