Town Hall back from the dead

• Jeannette Friesen in Dark Corners, a spooky look at Freo’s Town Hall.

WHEN the Herald toured Fremantle’s town hall recently, its gloomy corners, trashed balcony and peeling paint were a bit of a horror story, so it came as no surprise when one of our favourite local creatives, Ross Vegas, announced it’s the focus of his new “spooky” heritage tour.

Titled Dark Corners, the performance will fill the 19th-century hall with lights, sound, projection and Victorian-era storytellers each night from 6pm this weekend (May 12-14).

“What we really showcase is history. We just think history should bring the dead to life, not put the living to sleep,” Mr Vegas said.

“Heritage isn’t just wrought iron and oak staircases.

“It’s also how the values and actions of our ancestors shape our society today.”

The Dark Corners writer argued this show is relevant now as it spun troubling yet important history into its narrative.

“Truth matters, history matters and the past is not what we assume it to be,” Mr Vegas said.

The company consulted 130 years of reviews, interviews, entertainment listings, eyewitness accounts, newspapers and original publicity posters to source the stories told.

“We corresponded with city’s Aboriginal Engagement Officer, who was enormously helpful, to clarify and fact-check perspectives that we wouldn’t find in the newspaper,” Mr Vegas said.

The production isn’t all about ghost stories, even though they reckon overall it’s pretty spooky.

“They are also romantic, melancholy, comic, quirky and uplifting,” Mr Vegas said of other stories they uncovered.

One involved a father/daughter roller-skating duo who opened a rink in 1889, another the African-American vaudeville troupe who performed in 1899.

A menagerie of animals have performed in the historic hall over the years; lions, tigers, a leopard, a bear, a monkey and a baby elephant.

Dark Corners was presented in Mandurah and Kwinana with similar elements of modern projection effects and soundscapes.

Projection mapping has been programmed onto the contours of the Town Hall to create an image of the building as it was when new.

This helped tell “true stories from the past, told where they happened, in the words of those who were there, by those who are here now,” Mr Vegas said.

Part of the Australian Heritage Festival 2023, Dark Corners begins beneath the Town Hall clock at 6pm, 8 William Street, Fremantle with tickets priced at $20.

Children under 15 years must be accompanied by an adult.


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