What: Red Death
Where: Craigdarroch Castle, 1050 Joan Cres.
When: Oct. 17-31
Reservations: 250-592-5323, thecastle.ca
Zombies might be scary, but they’re not nearly as frightening as a key ingredient in the Halloween hijinks that begin at Craigdarroch Castle next Tuesday: the groovy music, costumes and hairstyles of the 1970s.
Launch Pad Theatre Company’s Red Death — “a horror play about stayin’ alive,” as its creative collaborators describe the site-specific work — blends the spirit of the disco era with creepy Edgar Allan Poe classics.
“It’s a bubblegum-pop horror guaranteed to scare the funk out of you,” says writer David Radford, who is co-directing the immersive theatre piece with Christina Patterson.
The two, whose past productions at Craigdarroch Castle include Dracula and Arkenham Abbey, are inviting theatregoers to dress in their “shiniest, clingiest disco attire,” although it’s not essential.
“We’re taking the classic literature of Edgar Allan Poe and spinning it through the narcotic fumes of the 1970s,” says Radford, whose show will take place in several castle corridors and rooms.
Audience members will be invited into a disco palace to escape the pestilence known as Red Death, based on Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.
“You’ll make your way into the castle to escape a grotesque blood virus. It has that B-movie kind of hook. Once you’re locked inside, you’ll realize that your hosts are not the fun-loving party people you thought they were.”
The main difference between this and the company’s past productions, Radford says, is that the audience will be separated into groups, each embarking on “a disturbing tour of depravity” in different rooms. Guests will each receive a key of a specific colour to determine where they’ll be heading.
Not everyone will see the same stories during a single visit, but there will be a significant compilation of highlights from Poe stories such as Berenice, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum.
“I took stories that are up to 50 minutes long and condensed them to nine-minute versions,” Radford says.
The couple took over the popular site-specific theatre programs after working for years with Ian Case, whose Giggling Iguana Productions presented macabre shows such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Fall of the House of Usher at the castle. It was a format they had grown comfortable with, going back to their days presenting shows in Barkerville in the early 2000s.
Radford says they were inspired by the success of the New York production of Sleep No More, a site-specific work based chiefly on Macbeth, but with references to film noir and other sources.
Although the action in Sleep No More is said to take place in the McKittrick Hotel, the promenade theatre piece unfolds in a hotel-like warehouse space in Chelsea, with the audience moving from room to room.
“We’re doing the best we can inside a historical museum to give you that feeling, although we can’t let people run loose,” Radford says. “We have to be very contained.”
In addition to this theatrical mash-up’s co-creators, Red Death features Trevor Hinton, Jared Gowen and Diana Nielsen, with 1970s-era costumes by Martha Burd and moody lighting and sound by Karen Stack.
The seasonal theatre programs have proved to be a good fit for the museum, says executive director John Hughes.
“Launch Pad’s productions have consistently sold out at Craigdarroch Castle,” he says, adding that he anticipates another sellout for its new Halloween production.
Parents and caregivers should note that the performance is not suitable for theatregoers under 18, however. Another caution: The show will take place over the castle’s four floors. There are 87 steps and no elevator.