Created by Matthew Lutton and Keziah Warner, written by Keziah Warner, and directed by Matthew Lutton, Hour of the Wolf invites audiences to Hope Hill, a fictional town that is yours to freely explore on the longest night of the year. This is the world premiere of a brand-new large scale immersive theatre work that will include over a dozen fully realised locations in the town and a cast of 11 actors.
Hour of the Wolf audiences will encounter three interweaving stories that unravel a town’s folk legend about a mysterious wolf that visits once a year. Audiences can choose which of the 11 characters to follow, pick left or right at the end of every scene and trace the night from different points of view. Attendees will be provided with headsets to guide them through the performance as they walk freely, finding places to sit or stand and watch the actors.
Eva Rees (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) plays Alex, one of the townspeople audience members will have the choice to follow. “I think the simplest way to describe her is charming; she is a people pleaser (a fault I share) but the positive side of that is that she is seldom disliked,” says Rees of her character. “Of all the characters I would say she is the one most often spoken positively of.’
Penned by award winning playwright Warner (Nosferatu), who is also an alumna of Melbourne Theatre Company’s Women in Theatre Program, Hour of the Wolf explores characters that are full, rich and unequivocally human.
“I think Keziah’s writing is magnificent, though Keziah would probably find my saying that irksome,” says Rees about Warner’s script. “My favourite aspect of her work however is the way in which character’s actions make sense on multiple levels, without ever being obvious or cliché. People behave certain ways and do certain things, and I can always recognise myself in said actions, without ever feeling like the play is trite or obvious.”
Rees acknowledges that centrally the play is a mystery; what happened in Hope Hill. The difference between this play and a regular play, however, is that everyone’s answers will be different, depending on the path they take through the maze (so to speak). “I think there will be great drama to be found in the foyer after the show, as people argue for their competing interpretations.”
Rees believes the work’s most salient theme to audiences will be the idea of loss. “In my opinion the most defining feature of a modern audience is that we are smarter than in years gone by,” says Rees. “This isn’t to say we are less willing to suspend our disbelief, far from it, but we certainly don’t tolerate lazy theatre-making or easily interpretable art. I think what will capture audiences, then, is the complexity of the themes and their potentially far-reaching implications.”
Hour of the Wolf builds on the landmark success of Because the Night, Australia’s first large-scale immersive theatre production of its kind – a blockbuster success for Malthouse Theatre from March to August. This style of immersive production allows audiences to walk through the production while the actors perform around them. An exciting removal from the norm for both actor and audience but, says Rees, emotionally the immersive aspect doesn’t differ greatly from conventional set ups – you have to invest in your character, and their arc, with the same tenacity you usually do. Rees believes the differences lie in the mechanics; how do you communicate with another actor if something is wrong, for example? On stage, you can hide behind sight lines or misdirection: in immersive work, the audience can be mere feet away; they see everything.
For Rees, the most exciting thing in the rehearsal room has been seeing how the immersive aspects of the show have informed her and other’s performances. “When we began rehearsing on set, I felt this distinct shift – we didn’t mime certain props because those props were, all of a sudden, literalised before us,” she says. “It makes your job a lot easier. You don’t have to project a world onto the objects around you to endow them with meaning, they are the actual objects to which you refer – all you have to do is work out how to let them speak for themselves.”
Not surprisingly, a big part of being an actor for Rees is telling stories. “The stories that go to the heart of who I am- those stories I prefer to write (or write about) but not act in per se, for the simple reason that I’m too close, and therefore won’t do the story justice. I want my perspectives challenged, and similarly, I want to be able to bring a fresh perspective to the parts I’m fortunate enough to play.”
Malthouse Theatre will elevate the immersive theatre genre further in Hour of the Wolf by realising additional immersive elements, including personalised, location-based sound design and interactive puzzle-solving to unlock deeper layers of story.
Says Rees, “Hour of the Wolf is a truly unique theatrical experience; one that we are rarely afforded. It is a thrill to bring it to audiences.”
October 19 – December 3