Perth Festival: Carnival of Souls @ Festival Gardens, Perth, 21/02/12

Those with an appreciation for film, theatre and music flooded through the gates of Perth Festival Gardens to witness Herk Harveys 1962 B-Grade horror, Carnival of Souls, brought to life with live actors, musicians and even a Foley artist (Sound effects).

It was the perfect night for an outdoor performance. The cast immediately made the audience feel a part of the performance, rather than just passive viewers, sifting their way through the crowd to get to the stage. They were dressed in 60’s attire framing the era of the film. After some humorous banter amongst themselves, they settled into their positions, and it began.

Carnival of Souls tells the tale of a young woman, Mary Henry (Tonight played by Underbelly Razors Chelsie Preston Crayford), who is the sole survivor of a car crash. She then moves to a small town in Utah to take up a job as a church organist. Life in the small town does not go smoothly as she slowly descends into madness, haunted by images of the undead.

The film was projected onto a screen located behind the live actors and musicians.

It was difficult to decide where to focus attention. The screen? The enthusiastic conductor? The musicians? The live performers channelling their on screen counterparts? Even the sound effects guy (*Gareth Van Niekerk*), locked away in his very own glass booth, was extremely interesting to watch.

One overly enthusiastic punter in the front row eased the tension of the opening scene, letting out a bellowing laugh at the most inappropriate time possible, the car crash. Although, the relief did not last long, tension was soon effectively recreated by the score.

Without a good score, a movie can fall flat, especially a horror movie. Music is an integral part of creating atmosphere and has to be used wisely to complement the imagery on the screen. Composer/Conductor Leon Radojkovic did his job exceptionally well, punctuating the scare scenes perfectly. His score was so effective that after the first scare he had the audience on edge for the remainder of the film. Even the sound of unexpected seagulls squawking was enough to scare the audience out of their seats!

While the score created tension, Oliver Driver’s direction provided some comic relief to the suspenseful movie. Actors Cameron Rhodes, Charlie McDermott and Bronwyn Bradley executed their roles skilfully, poking fun at characters and emphasising stereotypes through use of humorous dialogue and goofy voices. Each played multiple characters. You would never guess who was playing who if it weren’t for the fact we could see them.

The combination of Radojkovic’s score and Driver’s direction created a truly engaging experience. Much more exhilarating than sitting at home and watching the movie.