The ghosts of Sydney murders past are haunting The Rocks Discovery Museum for Deadhouse: Tales from Sydney Morgue. Beckoned inside the museum and gathered around the shrouded figure on the table (don’t worry, we’re assured in a whisper, it’s not a real body), we are introduced to just one of the many stories from the archives of Sydney Morgue, engagingly narrated by Kyla Ward.
The space is intimate, and minor technical problems are handled with grace by the cast who transition easily between scenes and characters. The audience is handed smoothly between actors, drawn into the trial as jurors and questioned as witnesses by the constable. We are invited to meetings to sign petitions as Gina Schien’s A Poison Crown, part of Deadhouse: Tales from Sydney Morgue, leads us through Botany woman Louise Collin’s story from doctors’ first suspicions to final judgement.
As colleagues discuss cases, they discover that they have both treated men with peculiar symptoms, not responding to treatment, who were both married to the same woman. When her second husband dies, Louise Collins is put on trial for his murder, but the jury fails to reach a verdict. Up and down the stairs of the museum, and in and out of rooms and corridors, the size of the audience in the space and the energy of the actors convincingly bring to life in the present scenes from the past. Without the relative safety and anonymity of a theatre, the audience is forced to face the humanity not just of the story, but of Louise herself, movingly portrayed by Jacqui Robson through to her story’s compelling and confronting conclusion.
Packing an impressive amount of storytelling into a running time of less than two episodes of your favourite crime show, with the help of an energetic newspaper boy calling out headlines and a creative silent montage behind Ward’s narration, this is a gripping night out for consumers of crime fiction and television. Make sure you wear comfy shoes, as seating space is limited, but any discomfort from standing will only help you empathise more with the characters for a truly interactive production.
A Poison Crown is a unique theatrical experience and a rare opportunity to explore some lesser-known aspects of Sydney’s history.
Emma can usually be found in the theatre or in a library, preferably with a cup of tea.
A Poison Crown plays Tues-Sat 1-5 May & 15-19 May at The Rocks Discovery Museum, 6pm and 7.30pm (60 mins) Buy tickets now.
The venue is not accessible.