Review: The Eve of St. George (Transcendance Project)

Photo from the Eve of St George by Alvin Collantes

Transcendance Project brings dark, seductive, immersive dance-theatre to Toronto’s Great Hall

Toronto dance company Transcendance Project, brings The Eve of St. George; a dark, seductive immersive dance-theatre experience to The Great Hall. Billed as a “very special Masquerade,” audience members are given masks upon arrival then set free to roam the rooms and corridors on three floors of The Great Hall to stumble upon scenes and follow characters around the building as anonymous voyeurs, each constructing their own unique narrative experience.

I’m a huge fan of the immersive theatre genre. I love how it completely redefines the entire concept of what “theatre” is and turns it on its head. To anybody who has experienced Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More in New York City, the show that has popularized immersive theatre more than any other, the set-up for this show will feel very familiar.

The Eve of St. George, created, directed, and choreographed by Julia Cratchley, shares many similarities with its progenitor: a shroud of mystery, a fractured narrative conveyed through dance and movement instead of dialogue, and a dark atmosphere and general sense of malaise (largely created by composer Owen Belton’s ambient soundscape of eerie strings and deep rumbling bass).

While Sleep No More is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Eve of St. George is based on another classical text; Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Those familiar with Stoker’s novel will easily be able to recognize various characters; Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Lucy Westenra, Mina Harker, Renfield and Count Dracula himself are some of the characters you may encounter throughout the evening. Photo from The Eve of St George by Alvin Collantes

The show lacks the budget of a huge commercial production like Sleep No More and is therefore of a smaller scale with less elaborate scenic design but that isn’t to say that The Eve of St. George isn’t a monumental accomplishment for an indie dance company. I’m hugely impressed by what Cratchley and her team have managed to do.

The show especially nails the choreography and movement-based storytelling. Much of the dance has a dark yet sensual quality to it that fits perfectly with the story. The dances have a sense of flow and narrative with characters conveying purpose and intention. A highlight for me was the final confrontation scene which is intensely physical and thrilling to watch.

I also loved the attention paid to the character work. Unfortunately, no programs were provided to credit individual dancers to their roles but standouts for me include the dancer in the role of Dracula who really nailed the menacing yet seductive quality of the role; the three alluring Brides of Dracula who slink around flirting with various audience members only to spurn them later; and the trio of ghostly, undead children, characterized perfectly with mischievous, childlike innocence but also a twinge of evil that made them truly unsettling at times.

The Eve of St. George is a beautifully-executed immersive theatre experience that captures the essence of its source material and brings the story to life in an exciting, new way. I definitely recommend checking it out. Unfortunately, the show is performing for a very limited run, only four performances over two nights, so you’ll need to act fast. Here’s hoping for a remount and a lengthier run in the future.


Photos by Alvin Collantes