Visitations by The Mission Business

You have gathered to take part in an arcane ritual, to aide Lucy on her quest to unlock the secrets of the Sabbaticus, an occult object and family heirloom, whose powers push the limits of the human mind. Equal parts Lovecraft, steampunk, and The Ring, Visitations draws on an armature of creepy tropes and media to create a unique and immersive transmedia adventure against the backdrop of the Drake Hotel.

Mission Business, who pitted the citizens of Toronto against a fictional pandemic last year in their transmedia event ZED.TO (http://zed.to/), have constructed a story of family obsessions and occult forces beyond the explanatory lens of scientific rationality. One of the show’s co-creators, Trevor Haldenby, explained that Visitations takes up these themes and reaches back into Toronto’s history for its inspiration. The result gives a sinister tone to the quaint sepia photos we so often associate with the banal past.

In Visitations we encounter Toronto the gothic, Toronto the strange.

The nexus of that experience is the Drake Hotel. The hotel’s 100-year history adds its own layers of significance to the story as well as an excellent backdrop for the kind of immersive adventure that Visitations offers. The parts of the hotel devoted to the show have been transformed by what Haldenby calls “insurgencies” of creative collaborators, whose evocative artifacts and spaces set the show’s gruesome tone.

There were moments when the Drake worked against the production, too. During the introduction, a comedy show and live music concert in an adjacent room made it difficult to hear the performers, who yelled over the noise. This may have distracted from the creepy aesthetic of Visitations, which uses measured amounts of quiet to build suspense. This was just a minor challenge, though, in a show where small groups of participants are constantly on the move.

To its credit, Visitations never devolves into flash-bang parlour tricks like a haunted house or bad horror movie. As one participant mentioned, the show feels a lot like “high-end murder-mystery theatre…but so much more!” The core of the show rests on its performers–the clairvoyants, ghost hunters, and parapsychologists who lead participants through both the arc of the narrative and the hotel itself. These impressive performances are equal parts improvisation and provocation as the actors simultaneously engage with participants and unfold the narrative in a fluid whirl. The resultant adventure does not dissapoint.

Visitations has two performances per night from April 21st to May 7th. See http://www.drakevisitations.com/ for ticket details.

Article by Justin Scherer

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