Set at the stunning historic house of Miegunyah House, this interactive and site-specific theatre game was a wonderful start to my personal Anywhere Festival Programme.
Eve’s Game opens as the audience ascends the stairs of the great house and are greeted by Prudence Gates, the serious housekeeper played by show writer and co-director Jo Willans. Prudence escorts us around the charming old Queensladers verandah where Eve Harrison, played by Ashlea Sloman, awaits our arrival for afternoon tea. Although located near a busy bustling city street, the moment Eve begins to talk to her guests I am instantly immersed in the moment of the theatre. No longer noticing the traffic, the cicadas begin to hum, providing an unexpected and sweet backing track to the narrative which unfolds.
Following tea on the verandah, and the detailing of Eve’s recent adventures to London, we begin our hour of sleuthing as we enter the house to find the clues which have been set. The audience become detectives as we follow Eve’s guidance to solving the mysterious disappearance of a young woman. After the cast assigns all guests with new female names to be associated by, we slowly become further emerged in the detective-game led production. I particularly enjoyed some of the smaller immersive qualities, such as providing tea and biscuits, blankets for potential cold, and Prudence adding touches of costuming to each of the house guests throughout the duration of the theatrical work. This attention to detail allowed each audience member became a part of the piece.
I am so glad that the script allowed the opportunity for Sloman to show-off her incredible singing voice. In a section of the piece, she is accompanied by Willans on the piano to sing a resonant rendition of Poor Wand’ring One. It almost made me disappointed that there were no other musical moments in the piece, however, I appreciated the way in which it was cleverly woven into the production.
Evidently written with a feminist lens, Willans has skilfully written a piece which immerses audiences into the potential thoughts of women in the 19th Century. In a predominantly male-written period, pieces such as Eve’s Game allow contemporary audiences to hear the voices of the women who were not given the opportunity to do so. The only disappointment is that the shows short run has already sold out, so I am unable to recommend it to everyone that would listen. It was incredibly fun way to spend my Sunday evening and I would be delighted if Republic of Song were to continue Eve’s Game in the future, perhaps following different story lines. Regardless, I look forward to what other brilliant immersive performances Republic of Song may produce in the future.
Although the character of Eve is based on real-life woman Evelyn Harris of Newstead fame, Miegunyah House is not where she resided. The house does, however, create a beautifully preserved backdrop for historical context. Though you certainly won’t have the same experience, I would definitely recommend going to view the elegant house. The house is open to the public on select days of the week, and there is an option to be served a Devonshire tea on the verandah of the historic house. Home of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association, it is wonderful to see it being used as the backdrop for presenting women’s history in new and thought-provoking ways.