Eve of St. George Brings Spooky Immersive Delights to Toronto

Long-time Toronto Guardian readers will know we are huge fans of immersive theatre, especially the genre-defining work of London/New York-based Punchdrunk Entertainment.

Julia Cratchley, artistic director of Toronto’s Transcen|Dance Project, is an unabashed admirer too, which is why, in 2015, she and her team mounted a stunning Punchdrunk-like production, Count Dracula and the Eve of St. George, here in the city.

Returning nearly ten years later (and after repeated sold-out runs in 2018 and 2019), the retitled Eve of St. George (the vampire has been dropped from the name, but not from the show) is set to once more take over The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West).

We loved Eve of St. George last time it was here, and we’re beyond thrilled that Toronto theatregoers will have another chance to experience what New York and London audiences have been raving about for decades.

Transcen|Dance Project is unafraid to acknowledge its influences.

Borrowing liberally from Punchdrunk’s immersive multi-room productions of years past, Eve of St. George has all the hallmarks of a night of spooky, immersive fun.

Here’s what to expect:

When you first step through the doors of The Great Hall, you’re handed a black mask, which must be worn all evening. The masks serve a dual purpose, encouraging audience members to think of themselves as guests at a masquerade, while also, more practically, making it easy to differentiate between audience and the cast of maskless actors and dancers.

Traversing the creaky halls and corridors of the 19th century Great Hall (it first opened its doors in 1889), you are free to explore its many rooms and galleries, never sure what you might encounter next. Given its vampiric inspirations, there’s a Gothic Horror feel to the whole thing, with performers looking like they’ve crawled out of a classic horror film, and the Great Hall’s many rooms redecorated to look like Victorian libraries, parlours, bedrooms, and so on.

Eve of St. George Brings Spooky Immersive Delights to Toronto

Key to the experience are the intricately choreographed parallel storylines that run throughout the show, making it impossible, by design, for you to see every character’s journey.

You might, for example, spend fifteen minutes following the little girl creepily playing with a raggedy doll, only to be intrigued by a mysterious light down a stairwell. This, in turn, leads you to a dance vignette performed by two elegantly dressed characters. Meanwhile, the scary doll girl will have wandered on to spook some other guests.

The goal, in Eve of St. George, is not to see and do everything, but rather to immerse yourself and inhabit another world, if only for ninety minutes. Attending with – and separating from – a companion is strongly recommended, so that you can compare notes afterwards about what you saw, and did not see, during your respective journeys.

Audiences should be aware that Eve deals in some mature topics and themes (unsurprisingly, given its literary inspiration, there will be blood), and is not for the faint of heart. That said, it’s not a haunted house, and it’s not, strictly speaking, designed to frighten.

Eve of St. George Brings Spooky Immersive Delights to Toronto

But it is strange and unsettling and altogether eerie, and the mere fact of wandering room to room, tension arising from the act of opening each new door you come across, means that some Torontonians may want to give this one a pass. (The show has a recommended age of 14+.)

On the other hand, if you’re even moderately curious, you should know that there are always volunteers to help out, and opportunities to take a break if it all becomes overwhelming.

Given that it’s sure to be the theatrical event of the season, I strongly encourage everyone with even a modicum of interest to brave the Great Hall – or should that be, Dracula’s Castle? – for an evening of spine-tingling fun. Who knows, you might even meet a certain Hungarian-accented count himself!

Tickets and more information on the Eve of St. George can be purchased here.