Sebastien Archibald and Amy McDougall Credit: Matt Reznek
Sebastien Archibald and Amy McDougall
Credit: Matt Reznek


At UBC Botanical Garden until November 19, 2016

Posted October 29, 2016

When October rolls around, it’s suddenly all about ghouls, ghosts and gore, zombies and murders most foul. It’s one thing to sit in the safety of a theatre or cinema and feel scared but it’s quite another to trek around Granville Island at night for The Zombie Syndrome: Dead In The Water (produced by The Virtual Stage; must close October 31) or out to the UBC Botanical Garden, specifically the Greenheart TreeWalk after dark for Hidden (produced by ITSAZOO).

Playwright and co-director Sebastien Archibald blurs the line between history and fantasy in Hidden. The press release reads: “. . . part historical murder tour, part outdoor adventure and part meta-theatrical thriller.”

Historical? We are shown old, yellowed Vancouver Sun newspaper clippings about an unsolved murder of three UBC students dating back twenty years to 1996. Outdoor adventure? A tour guide with a big flashlight leads us through dense, dripping woods, past rushing water that we cannot see and along half a dozen narrow, single-file suspension bridges way up in the forest canopy. Meta-theatrical thriller? Well, you’ll just have to go see Hidden to judge its meta-theatrics and its potential to scare the pants off you.

The tours – groups of about twelve – leave nightly at 8 PM by van from The Wolf and Hound on Broadway between Dunbar and Alma. Be prepared to sign a Release of Liability waiver when you’re at the pub. FYI: at no time did I feel I was in danger. Waking along 310 meters of crazily swinging suspension bridges in the pitch black is a bit of a challenge but I’m no athlete and I managed. There are no stairs to climb but maintaining your balance on the bridges while clutching ropes on either side requires a degree of fitness or dogged determination. Everyone is wearing a little lantern on a lanyard around the neck and head counts are frequent. Most of the time, the action is viewed from platforms looking way, way down to the forest floor below but sometimes you are clustered along the bridge, single file. The bridges, I was told, are rated for twenty-six people so unless half of the group weighs in excess of 600 lbs each (I did the math), you should be fine.

And what do you see from up there? Betrayal. Violence. Murder. Lovers running through the woods. A hooded, wolf-masked killer stalking them. Catching up to them. Catching them. And worse.

Leslie Dos Remedios, Mike Klemak and Brett Harris Credit: Matt Reznek
Brett Harris, Mike Klemak and Leslie Dos Remedios
Credit: Matt Reznek

Just when you think it’s all over, it’s not. Hidden, really imaginatively directed by Archibald and Chelsea Haberlin, does a 180° at which point I didn’t find it quite as scary although some in the group were pretty darned nervous. I live in the bush so bumping into a cougar or a big, honking black bear in the dark is what really gets my hair standing on end.

Rain or shine. No umbrellas because you need both hands on the bridge ropes to keep you upright. Rubber boots or hiking boots are best; there are places where it’s really mucky.

I had fun, felt I’d taken a bit of a risk. And on that note: ITSAZOO is well organized. If you get on one of the bridges and panic, there’s someone to help you off the bridge and get you back to the van. While some of the show feels a little chaotic, it’s all in the plan.

And, at the end of it all, I want to go back and do the Greenheart TreeWalk in the daylight. Doubtless, that’s what the UBC Botanical Garden folks were hoping for when they let this wild bunch of theatre-makers into the garden: Georgia Beaty, Mike Klemak, Brett Harris, Shauna Griffin, Leslie Dos Remedios and Zac Scott. The production and design team includes Amy McDougall, Cheyenne Maberley, Chris Adams, Jennifer Stewart, and Olivier Lunardi.

See Hidden if you dare. If you’re afraid of the dark or heights, maybe you should stay home. Or maybe this is your chance to confront your fears in a controlled setting amongst a bunch of other crazies. It’s selling out so don’t just think about it too long.

Credit: Matt Reznek
A page from the Hidden ‘kit’. Credit: Matt Reznek