Where better to learn about some of Edmonton’s more gruesome history than Fort Edmonton Park in October? Taking place in tandem with DARK, Catch the Keys Productions’ Dead Centre of Town XII combines site-specific and immersive theatre with frights and ghouls.
Edmonton’s dead have risen to share their historically inspired stories with the living at Mellon Farmhouse, but if one of the house’s residents has their way, no one will live to tell any tales. Playwright Megan Dart found three great, gruesome gems hidden in the city’s history—including a connection to Alberta’s largest unsolved mass murder—and braided them together with a supernatural narrative. Her sister, director Beth Dart, and the cast and crew then brought the script to life with awesome practical effects and very committed performances.
Three ghost chaperones accompany the audience throughout the performance, helping to usher everyone along and get you headed in the right direction—and they manage to do this without ever uttering a word or breaking character. Even at -11C, standing outside in the freezing cold while in costume.
The actors who did talk performed with gusto, but unfortunately, some of their dialogue can get lost in larger groups. Dead Centre of Town XII is not a haunted house, but many audience members forget this and talk during the performance. Add to that a cramped farmhouse and a large group, and it can be difficult to follow what’s going on at times. There’s also one section where the performance repeats and meanders a bit. But if you pay attention, there’s a surprisingly sweet sentiment buried within the narrative that gets driven home for you in the epilogue.
Between the top-notch performances, killer special effects (not risking any spoilers on this one), and the interesting historical backstory, it’s definitely a great way to get spooked.