Where: Garden of Unearthly Delights
When: 18 February – 15 March
** Spoiler alert: This review discusses the installation 1000 Doors in detail **
Created by Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, the duo behind the House of Mirrors that you may have visited over the last few festival seasons, 1000 Doors is pretty self-explanatory. It’s one of the most hyped shows that I have seen advertised in the lead up to this year’s Fringe, so I was eager to check it out.
Along with the hype surrounding this installation, we are greeted by ominous thumping noises and no way of knowing where inside the door-filled labyrinth they may be coming from. The staff member at the front lets us know that this installation is designed to stimulate visitors’ nostalgia and emotions. He explains that everything inside is real, nothing has been fabricated. Already, 1000 Doors seems more deep than I anticipated, I honestly just thought it would be a bunch of doors. On that note, we enter the first of probably around 50 doors.
1000 Doors is deeply unsettling. It’s like something out of a haunted house, abandoned asylum crossover. There are all the hallmarks of Creepy Places — water stained, peeling wallpaper, cabinets that have been rifled through, a consistent antiseptic smell, disembodied voices and music, and inexplicably many, many scattered old photographs, like vintage old people photographs. To be honest, a more accurate name would have been 1000 Photographs, but I digress.
If the point of 1000 Doors is to be creepy, it succeeds. It really is super unnerving. As the first two people through the first door when we hear a slam, a phone ring, or happen across another person it shocks us. But on a more meaningful level, 1000 Doors is kind of empty. We are told that to reflect on what we are feeling, but to be honest there really isn’t much deeper meaning to empty corridors and family photographs. We are told that there’s a deeper level of meaning about materiality and time, or where the objects had been found. As someone with a degree in art history, I can’t help but look for deeper meaning, but in the case of 1000 Doors this is a gross overstatement. If any of these things were important, the connections should be more obvious.
On top of all this, the photographs don’t sit right with me. At the beginning of the experience we are told to explore the things inside the labyrinth. So we do; we look at photos and through drawers. The photos are likely to have been found in op shops, but whose family photos are they? I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel right ethically to use these photographs as entertainment, to encourage people to use them, to let them get rained on, when they are real documents from real people’s lives.
1000 Doors is creepy, it’s a well produced haunted house without the jump scares. But does it mean anything? Undecided.
Creepy rating: 4 out of 5
Experience rating: 2.5 out of 5