Sunset Heritage Precinct backdrop for Dease and Strut Dance Perth Festival show

Rachael Dease at Sunset Heritage Precinct. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d489337
Rachael Dease at Sunset Heritage Precinct. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d489337

IF the walls of Sunset Heritage Precinct could talk, they would have many tales to tell.

Established in 1904 as Claremont Old Men’s Home, the Dalkeith site housed agricultural workers, gold prospectors and former convicts struggling to support themselves before it became a public hospital from the mid 1960s to 1995.

While the majority of the heritage buildings remain off-limits due to safety reasons, Perth Festival audiences will get a glimpse into the site’s secrets when Strut Dance present Sunset at the venue from February 7 to 17.

The immersive dance-theatre experience, led by UK director-choreographer Maxine Doyle, will provide an adventure as audiences roam through the dusty shadows to music by Mt Lawley composer Rachael Dease.

“The venue lends itself to feeling like it’s in some kind of purgatory and that runs through the work quite a lot; it feels like an abandoned world,” Dease said.

“There’s something spooky but it feels there are ghosts in that space, not necessarily nasty ones, just ones that have a lot of stories.”

Dease said audiences would wander through different spaces in this intimate work commissioned by Perth Festival as one of six ‘Made in WA’ offerings.

“The audience capacity number is quite small (100 people) considering the space that we’re in is so big, which is always special,” she said.

“I was talking to Maxine this week and I think the best way to describe it is that it feels like you’re in a film.

“It’s quite a cinematic work that relies heavily on sound and lighting, but there is an intimacy there as well with the performers in themselves and with the audience.

“There are some very tender moments but also some quite bombastic experiences.”

Just as the name of the production implies, Dease said Sunset was a performance best viewed “as the sun set or after dark”.

“Working there during the day doesn’t make the work come alive as much as it does at night,” she said.

“I always look forward to the shadow play and I feel like a frustrated lighting and set designer, so I’m always really excited when I get to see what Matt (Adey, lighting) and Bruce (McKinven, set) have been doing.

“I think what they’re creating with these performers is going to be quite extraordinary.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Sunset

Where: Sunset Heritage Precinct

When: February 7 to 17

Tickets: www.perthfestival.com.au