St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt, The Octagon, Dunedin

03/03/2016 - 05/03/2016

Dunedin Fringe 2016

Production Details

A mysterious character from Dunedin’s past has been rediscovered during recent renovations at St. Paul’s Crypt. Doctor Walford Brody was a renowned hypnotist from the late 1800s with an eccentric reputation and unpredictability that can be described as a forgotten part of Dunedin’s rich history.

A secret laboratory was discovered due to a burst pipe, preserved journals along with a collection of curiosities ranging from thing-a-majig devices to knic-knac what nots, revealed Brody dedicated his life to the study of the subconscious mind.

Doctor Brody’s effects will be on display to the public for three nights concluding with a live auction, this is a chance to enter into the peculiar.

The Crypt, St Paul’s Cathedral 
The Octagon, Dunedin 
Thu 3 Mar – Sat 5 Mar 2016
$15.00 – $20.00  
visual art • music • theatre

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Theatre ,

Beautiful, spooky and fascinating

Review by Alison Embleton 06th Mar 2016

St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt has been transformed into a labyrinth of interactive installations and dream-scapes, each representing a different stage of the dream process for The Dream Collector. The audience members are greeted by Dr Walford Brody (a 17th century hypnotist) in the foyer. This space is set up displaying some of the mysterious doctor’s possessions, workspaces and other items of curiosity. Everything is meticulously put together, no detail is considered too small to warrant attention.  

Dr Brody introduces himself, shares a little of his back story including the tragic details of his family life, his turn towards the occult and his own untimely death. This ghostly and dapper figure (played with eerie charm by Craig Storey) then invites his guests to follow him through the curtain into the dream world of his experiments.

What follows is both peculiar and compelling. The doctor speaks of the various stages of the dream cycle as he leads the audience through each installation, most are interactive in some way and all are exquisitely made. The feeling of unease permeates the entire space, but in the adrenalin-fuelled way of ghost stories. The imagery and narrative prompt you into reflecting on your own dream-state experiences.

Somewhere in the background you can hear the murmuring of voices and music (during my visit I was treated to the talents of Lucy Hunter, but over the course of three evenings OWLS, High Twitch Athletic Club, Nick Knox, Terrified and Tahu and The Takahes all performed in the bar). These elements add to the ethereal feeling permeating the Crypt during the tour.

The whole set up is beautiful, spooky and fascinating. Maggie Covell and Jo Little (the co-art directors) have created an incredible piece of art: it incorporates so many elements without seeming cluttered or messy. Everything flows together and complements flawlessly. It’s the kind of experience an audience member can keep returning to over the course of an evening, feeling and navigating different elements each time and never growing tired. 

At the end of the dream tour lies a cosy bar with an area for performers. (Herein lies the source of the disembodied voices and music.) Drinks are available, colouring pencils, paper; everything you could want in order to create and to process the experience you’ve just been through. The room feels calm and strange and has a rather woozy quality to it, helping to emphasise the thoughts of the laudanum-haze the doctor has spoken of earlier in the evening.

When you finally feel it’s time to leave, you’re given a last look at the displays in the foyer. Armed with the knowledge of the doctors’ life and his experiments, the organs in jars and tarot cards seem even creepier, but you can’t help but be drawn in by it all.

The Dream Collector seems to be Dunedin’s answer to Sleep No More. But with its own story to tell, its own unique blend of theatre, music and visual arts, and a guide who will more than likely haunt your dreams in a friendly, yet unsettling way. 


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