Part historical tour, and part total creep-out ghost fest, ImmerCity’s The Dwindling House of Holland is an interesting experiment in how to best utilise site-specific theatre. The hour-long ghost walk takes place in the pitch-black pathways of Holland Park, and is almost completely done with no additions to the ‘set’ other than what is naturally found in the park.
The Dwindling House of Holland is an add on to a ghostly opera taking place in the park – which you can read about here. You can purchase a ticket to see both the opera and the ghost walk, but this reviewer and friends decided to do solely the ghost walk as we are bigger fans of ImmerCity than we are of opera. Fortunately, the walk is enjoyable as a stand alone entity for those who did not see the opera.
It really is not for the faint of heart or the weak of constitution. This is a lesson in subtle terror. Many parts of the evening involve walking through the wooded paths of the completely darkened park single file whilst bushes deliberately rustle around you. Occasionally, you see glimpses of figures hiding in the trees, softly illuminated by ethereal light. That all the audience are given black hoods and capes to wear adds well to the uneasy feeling of the evening, and also makes it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe – a lesson I learned the hard way after spending the better part of 10 minutes nearly in tears whilst trying to hide from my friend Giuseppe, whom I had mistaken for an evil spirit. Sorry, Giuseppe.
When we do come across a spirit or a ghost, soft lantern light or battery operated candles illuminate the scene just enough to see, whilst maintaining a ghostly ambiance. Some of the spirits speak to give life to the incredible history of the park; others just stand there and add to the unease of the park.
It’s an enjoyable walk through the woods, but the performance is let down by the limited content presented. The evening is just around an hour – a time frame which is appreciated given how late the start time is required to be – but there quite simply isn’t enough active presentation. The time spent walking through the woods is incredibly eerie, but the most interesting aspect is having the ‘ghosts’ bring the tragic and spooky history of the park to life — and this only happens at two points during the evening.
The final walk back towards the building is equal parts haunting and beautiful and goes full circle from the eerie warning given at the beginning, but at the point which the tour ends it feels very abrupt and premature. It’s a shame, as this is a good production — but it would be so much better with more of it.
Buy tickets and find out more about the performance here.
Some Top Tips:
Think it might rain? BRING AN UMBRELLA. This is entirely outside, and wear sensible shoes. The paths are purposefully not lit, and there’s a lot of tree roots to avoid.
Allow a lot of time to get into the park. Very few entrances are open at this time of night. If you are coming straight from the opera, you’ll find the start point with ease, but as we came from the pub we struggled and ended up running around the entire exterior of the park before we got in. The entrance by the Holland Park car park is open, and the one off of Kensington High Street (in between High Street Kensington Station and Kensington Olympia) is where we leave from, but DO NOT try to enter the park from any entrance near Holland Park tube station.
I took the photo from Immercity’s website; if it’s a problem, give me a shout and I’ll take it down.
We meet two ghosts who share their stories