Exciting new show opens in haunted Melbourne building

Chantes des Catacombes

Chants Des Catacombes is a new collaborative cabaret experience mixing musical theatre, vaudeville, burlesco, indie pop, hip hop and the macabre.

AussieTheatre.com caught up with Bryce Ives, the director of this new work for a chat about the creative process and the upcoming season at Donkey Wheel House in the heart of Melbourne city.

Chants des Catacombesbegan as a 10 minute work in the Short and Sweet Cabaret Festival. From a one woman show (which won the Short Sweet and Cabaret Festival 2010, by the way), this piece has grown into an hour-long promenade theatrical experience with nine collaborators and a whole lotta spunk.

For those of you unfamiliar with Donkey Wheel House(of which I am sure there are many), the building is a 120 year old ex-nunnery with a basement so haunting it makes your skin crawl.

“The basement, where we are performing, is said to be haunted”, said Bryce Ives, collaborator and director of the new work. “Although during rehearsals we haven’t experienced anything [haunting]…yet”.

Ives describes the rehearsal process for Chants des Catacombes as ‘really interesting and hugely collaborative’.

How collaborative can it be, I wondered? With an allocated director, set designer, lighting designer, actors and musicians – doesn’t everyone have their place mapped out in the process? Apparently not, and how refreshing to hear it!

“It’s been a really inspired and inspiring rehearsal process, but also really quite scary. We’ve gone down a really different path with this collaboration. We wanted it to be a “meeting of artists” rather than a normal heirachy that you would find in a rehearsal room”, he said. “There are 9 collaborating artists, and it has been a really collaborative process”.

The nine members of the ‘creative team’ have an eclectic array of talents and skills, including an opera director who plays piano and violin, a graphic designer, a scent alchemist, NIDA and VCA graduates and a choreographer.

“In this process, the lighting designer has has just as much influence over the story and the rehearsal process as the actors and the choreographer. We have all been so involved in so many different ways”.

Chants Des Catacombes is the brainchild of Anna Boulic, a NIDA trained voice teacher, harpist and singer, who developed the ten-minute version of the show alongside theatre director Bryce Ives that won last year’s Short and Sweet Cabaret Festival.

This production will be an entire sensory experience.

“There are three rooms in the Donkey Wheel House – each belonging to a character in the show. Each room will have its own scent, it’s own feel”, Ives said. We have a harp, a violin, a tuba and two pianos.

The sound of each room is very distinct and unique, and the show will feature a harp, a tuba, a violin and two pianos, adding an interesting aural experience to this show which stimulates the senses.

“We are calling this a ‘cabaret’, because it borrows a lot of popular songs and re-imagines them within our story. But it also a piece of promenade theatre. It’s actually a coming together of a whole lot of different ideas to create the work. Our focus has been as much on the process as it has been on the finished product”, says Ives.

What will the audience experience when they come to see the show?

“The piece is celebrating the amazing space in [the Donkey Wheel House], and the story has evolved around the magnificence of these rooms. It’s visually a very interesting production and the audience will be flooded with visual stimulation as they move from room to room.”

Chants des Catacombes opens TONIGHT in Melbourne for a very short season, and will be well worth a look. If not for the 120 year old haunted nunnery, then for the amazing performances on show.

Donkey Wheel House is located at 673 Bourke Street Melbourne.

Opening night: Thursday 16th of June at 8.30pm

Other performances: Friday 17th of June at 8.30pm & 10.30pm, Saturday 18th of June at 8.30pm & 10.30pm, Sunday 19th of June at 6pm

Tickets: $30 (Concession $25)

www.trybooking.com/9503 or at the door

Creative Team/Collaborators

  • Nicola Andrews (Lighting Designer and VCA Design Graduate)
  • Anna Boulic (Winner of the 2010 Short and Sweet Cabaret Festival, Harpist and NIDA Graduate)
  • Laura Burzacott (Call Girl the Musical and I Heart Frankston)
  • Nathan Gilkes (Theatre & Opera Director and VCA Directing Graduate)
  • David Harford (Choreographer and Ballarat Arts Academy Graduate)
  • Bryce Ives (Theatre Director Call Girl the Musical, The History Boys and I Heart Frankston)
  • Emma Leah (Scent Alchemist)
  • Zoe McDonald (Wrong Town and VCA Musical Theatre Graduate)
  • Sophie Woodward (Designer and VCA Graduate)

Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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