October 30, 2011
by Howard Dai
For the past week leading up to Halloween, I’m volunteering for Seven Tyrants Theatre in
, for this Halloween site-specific production named “Judge Dee and The Haunted Garden”, re-written from the famous Judge Dee series by Robert van Gulik. We transformed Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden in Vancouver Chinatown to make it look haunted-house-like, but instead it’s a haunted garden. The show features nearly 30 actors, dancers, and musicians, with an awesome site and amazing soundscape. Arguably it's the best Halloween theatre this year in . Vancouver
I played a monk at the front of the route, who is the first to break the fourth wall and leads the audience into the plotline of the show. In the first half of the show, audiences are told that their car is broken, and they have to stay in this haunted garden for a night, where three young women died mysteriously. You meet all the characters, except for Judge Dee in the first half and collect information from all of them. Then you’re led to the “Risky Sip” Tea House for intermission; audience members are encouraged to gather clues and piece together the crime. In the second half, you finally meet Judge Dee, and the criminal is exposed.
I had a chance to walk through the whole thing as an audience member. The garden is a perfect site for the story, the lighting is a huge add-on for the creepy atmosphere that we desire. Though I think it could be way scarier if we really want it to be a haunted house, but ultimately this is still a theatre presentation, therefore the setting of this site is just a decoration for the story, and it mustn’t detract audience attention. Nonetheless, I think it really gets to the point that’s just perfect for the atmosphere we wanted to deliver. The performers in this production are amazing too, their improv skills are a really important element for them breaking the fourth wall without breaking character. We do about 15 shows a night on average, with approximately 100 people entering the garden in groups every night; it’s really interesting to interact with all kinds of people with all kinds of different reactions to the same lines in every show. I guess that’s just how charming the magic of theatre is.
"Judge Dee and The Haunted Garden" has its closing night on Halloween night, from 7 - 10 pm. Catch this amazing production before it closes, call 604-662-3207, or visit the website for tickets.