The Curiosity Experiment

In the dining room of the atmospheric Carclew mansion, thirteen guests are seated around a table in the dark. Dust sheets cover the antique furniture. A gramophone crackles in the corner. Our enigmatic host sets the scene.

Reading from an old letter written by his grandfather, we discover that the host was involved in a curious experiment as a child, one Christmas, long ago. On that occasion, a mysterious guest joined a family dinner sporting an equally mysterious object – a gold ring of unknown origins, engraved with two sets of initials.

Claiming that inanimate objects exposed to moments of intense human emotion can communicate those moments to sensitive souls, the stranger set up the experiment. In our recreation, we are asked to shield our eyes with the same blindfolds used that fateful night, and surrender to the experiment.

And that, I'm afraid, is all I can tell you about the story.

In a nostalgic take on campfire ghost stories, The Curiosity Experiment invites you to engage your imagination and immerse yourself in a richly layered theatre experience.

Blindfolded for most of the play, we are left only with sound and a pervasive skin-crawling sensation. The action builds up slowly. New characters and story threads are introduced with perfect timing.

The script is well-written, and the central character is superbly played. The talented supporting cast layer creepy echoes, rasping breaths and maniacal laughter to suck you right into the moment. I jumped in nervous surprise several times.

Company Nathan Schulz Presents specialises in creating this kind of creepy immersive theatre, and they do it well. The guts of this production – when you’re completely enveloped in the story – are absolutely brilliant. The host’s introduction and the documents you are asked to read before and after the show are a bit clunky, though, and overcook the concept. Pared back, this could easily be a five-star experience.

If you like your theatre up close and personal, and your murder mysteries on the paranormal end of the spectrum, The Curiosity Experiment is definitely for you. They sold out at last year’s Melbourne Fringe, and it’s a small audience, so get your tickets while you still can.

★★★★