Journey to the Kingdom of Hypnos

Carmel-Clavin-photo-by-Todd-GardnerAncient Greek legends are a bedrock of Western culture, informing much of the English language. They endure because they preserve the lessons of the past for interpretation in the now. A satisfying example of such re-interpretation is seen, or rather heard, in Journey to the Kingdom of Hypnos, billed as “An immersive underworld audio adventure.”

The show is in good company at Melbourne Fringe 2023. Fringe offerings include riffs on the naughty Greek GODZ of Mount Olympus or on the three-headed dog Cerberus guardian of the gates of Hades’ underworld. Yet, some of us mere mortals have much to learn about the less-visited caverns and rivers of Greek mythology.

We’re given an atmospheric tour through some of these places through this Spectacle & Mirth production – winner of awards, including the Best Immersive & Interactive Show award at Sydney Fringe 2023.

After riding the lift to a pop-up venue on Level 2 of Trades Hall, we were greeted by creator and performer Carmel Clavin as Mnemosyne. The visage of this Goddess of Memory has auburn hair and a green robe, which draws on depictions by the Pre-Raphaelite artists (roughly 1848 to 1900).

There’s an appropriate gravitas about Clavin’s Mnemosyne as she informed us of how the adventure would proceed. The audience were seated on benches and blindfolds were offered for those unable to keep their eyes closed for the show’s 28 minutes.

It was then time to don the provided headphones, and to relax as Mnemosyne guided us into the underworld, where we would experience an other-worldly soundscape, replete with sung poetry.

We learned that the deceased always had a choice of whether to turn to Mnemosyne and preserve their memory, or instead to ask sister Leithe to forget their life. But the world has changed, which is why Mnemosyne has visited us. If we are not careful, we may surrender our choice without even thinking about it.

Like the work of the Fates, there are threads working in combination here. Clavin exudes serenity in the face of challenges, or an edge in some restrained trash-talking of Leithe. We can feel Mnemosyne’s benevolent intentions towards us, the mortals she is duty-bound to protect. There was also solid professionalism here in pushing through the somewhat-distracting noise pollution from other shows in Trades Hall.

Fortunately, when we safely returned to the Earth’s surface at show’s end, punters learned how to experience an online version of the show. This helps to fill in some missed details, as there can be a lot to take in at times.

It can be a wonderful thing when artists channel their energy into being research nerds, and produce something experimental and unfamiliar, like Journey to the Kingdom of Hypnos. Fittingly, shows like this can help an audience make some new kinds of Festival memories.

The work is a valuable addition to the programme for those with a vision impairment, who still don’t have much on offer at festivals that is completely suitable for their needs. Also, Clavin will generously wait after the show to answer audience questions.

A future incarnation of the show will feature a visual component, but the core will still be the audio track. Let’s hope that we get to experience that at some future local fringe.

Journey to the Kingdom of Hypnos
Festival Hub – Trades Hall, Corner Lygon and Victoria Streets, Carlton
Performance: Saturday 14 October 2023
Season: 4 – 15 October 2023 (ended)

Image: Carmel Clavin as Mnemosyne – photo by Todd Gardner

Review: Jason Whyte