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A person in a dark cap and animal mask against a set that looks like a forest. A neon triangle surrounds the person.
Photograph: Supplied / Malthouse Theatre

Malthouse to turn its entire building into an immersive theatre experience

'Because the Night' allows audience members to freely explore the mysterious town of Elsinore, while performers act out the story around them

Nicola Dowse
Written by
Nicola Dowse

After a year on pause, Malthouse is staying true to its experimental roots and relaunching with possibly the largest and most daring immersive theatre production to ever grace Australian stages. Because the Night (opening March 23) is an immersive theatre experience where audiences can explore the massive, maze-like set while actors weave the narrative around them. Don't come expecting to sit down and watch actors on a stage – Because the Night unfolds all around you, with guests encouraged to explore every nook and cranny of the space. 

Because the Night draws inspiration from Hamlet, but set in the fictional 1980s logging town of Elsinore. As you tread through the many rooms (there's more than 30), you'll bear witness to murder, uprisings and secrets, but exactly what you see can vary wildly and it's impossible to discover everything in one visit. How you experience Because the Night is largely up to you  – you could ghost one of the actors, following the narrative from their perspective, or you could go off road and explore whichever rooms take your fancy. The scale of the production was also inspired by Punch Drunk's famous Sleep No More in New York (which is also based on Shakespeare, namely Macbeth) and fans of 2019's A Midnight Visit in Melbourne (based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe) will also sense similarities.  

Matlhouse artistic director and co-CEO, Matthew Lutton, says "‘We are creating an entire fictional world that an audience is empowered to walk around and explore. It invites you to follow your own curiosities – to open doors and follow the stories that entice you – to escape from the outside world and be immersed in an alternative reality."

With audiences of up to 60 people sauntering around the labyrinthine space, you're probably wondering about social distancing will work. Malthouse created Because the Night as a direct response to the challenges of 2020; the production allows actors to perform while maintaining their distance from others and the set has been designed to allow the appropriate amount of space per person and to naturally prevent guests clumping together. While you won't be able to touch the performers, guests will be able to interact with the set to discover more about the world of Elsinore, with the space cleaned after each performance. Plus you'll be wearing a mask for the entire performance and expected to move through the space silently, as if you were merely a spirit observing the macabre events. 

The cast has already been announced, with Keegan Joyce (Cloudstreet, Please Like Me) and Khisraw Jones-Shukoor as Hamlet; Tahlee Fereday (Blackie Blackie Brown, 2019) and Artemis Ioannides as Ophelia; Harvey Zielinski and Ras-Samuel Welda’abzgi as Laertes; Rodney Afif (Good Muslim Boy, 2018) and Syd Brisbane as Polonius; Jen Vuletic (My Dearworthy Darling, 2019) and Belinda McClory as Gertrude; and Nicole Nabout (Good Muslim Boy, 2018) and Maria Theodorakis as Queen Claudia (in place of the villainous King Claudius). 

Because the Night opens Tuesday, March 23. Current tickets are sold out but more are available soon – in the meantime, you can score tickets by signing up to Malthouse's Muses and Mates program. You can also win an exclusive insiders experience, including a double pass, by entering Time Out's competition

Malthouse has also launched an outdoor stage in its courtyard. 

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