The night begins with awkward chitchat and a tentative tasting of the contents of two crystal decanters in the centre of the table. It ends with a ghost story, a high pitched scream from an audience member, and me desperately needing a beer so I could process what happened.
The Curiosity Experiment, presented by Nathan Schulz, is a real mixed bag, a collection of hits and misses that left me spooked (intended), confused (probably intended), and a little disappointed (definitely not intended). A sort of story, within a story, within a story, audience members are transported back to 1965 to be told of a party that happened in 1963, where an antiques dealer proposed an experiment to explore the 1920s mystery behind three creepy dolls and a ring, found in a West End home. Oh and at some point, the audience will be blindfolded.
Still following? It’s okay, I’m kind of struggling too.
The Butler and his 1965 timeline is the weakest part of the evening. Not only is it unnecessary – it would have been better to have simply been at the Delameres’ 1963 dinner party right from the beginning – but it is poorly written and poorly executed, with Brad Phillips as the Butler giving a performance that is marred by missed lines, ill-judged pauses, and inconsistent projection. At times, it felt like Phillips and Michael J Lawless, as the antiques dealer, had different scripts – never more so than in the finale where, instead of things being explained, the dialogue simply stopped making sense. Whether this was due to the script itself, or a confusion amongst the performers, I’m not sure, but by then the experiment was truly over, and the illusion was shattered.
There is one major strength to The Curiosity Experiment, however, and that lies within the ghost story itself, following the tale of New York girl Ella Kruger, who murders her Brisbanite mother-in-law. Superbly acted on the night by Audrey Cadzow, switching between characters so well that she left some audience members asking where the other actress was, it was both a terror and a delight to be a part of it. From pearls brushing against shoulders, to the gentle trace of a finger nail across my shins, to sneaky peaks under the blindfold to see a fantastic costume and gory make up, this was where the real talent for the night was to be found – both in the script, free of the clunky dialogue and confused exposition of the unnecessary framing devices, and in the performance, clear, energetic and, at times, every bit as terrifying as you’d hope a night spent blindfolded in a curiosity shop to be.
Reviewer attended the May 9th performance
The Curiosity Experiment takes place at Ecclectica: Esoteric Books and Curiosities in West End, with performances running until May 21st – though you might want to plan your visit around the timetable of the Latin dance school upstairs. Nothing kills a spooky atmosphere like a lambada class going on above you.
Seating is strictly limited for each performance, and the experiment begins at 7.30pm sharp.