Expectations upon expectations weighing us down. A constant push to earn more money to afford to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Perhaps it really is as the saying goes: “life was simpler back then”.

This March, take the opportunity to travel back to a simpler time with Hurstville: The Heir, a brand new multi-sensory, immersive theatre production by Underground set to take audience members all the way back to the 1930s, at the very height of the Great Depression. Hurstville offers a solution to this otherwise gloomy backdrop, with audience members taking on the role of newcomers to the titular village, dubbed a haven amidst the economic downturn.

Audience members can expect to find themselves lost in a new world, complete with a rustic town square, chapel, bakery, and plenty of other secret rooms to uncover in their exploration of Hurstville.

Hurstville takes a leaf from Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, and follows in the same vein by allowing each and every audience member almost complete freedom to explore the space. Bookended only by an opening scene and an ending scene, audience members can choose to follow over 20 distinct characters through the course of the evening, each with their own unique path and individual stories to be discovered.

Many of these storylines relate back to Underground’s overarching concerns and revolve around issues of mental health such as characters struggling with:

  • trust
  • guilt
  • fear
  • anxiety
  • depression

As they make their way through the village, encounter new situations and progress through each storyline, audience members may choose to switch between characters they are following at any one time, and those lucky enough may even get the chance to enjoy exclusive one-on-one interactions with them.

The outcome of the stories in Hurstville are not fixed and are dependent solely on the decisions audience members make during their encounters. Audience members are given the heavy responsibility of determining the fates of each character, ranging from directly suggesting them to go down a certain path, or their overall behaviour affecting the atmosphere and environment, causing characters to either repress themselves or choose to change for the better.

It is by taking these actions and seeing their effects on the people around them that audience members can learn to see the power each and every person has in effecting change, whether for better or for worse, as Sheena and her team believe.

The process of self-discovery and physically exploring Hurstville naturally, expends plenty of energy, but Underground also has a solution to that — an optional, thematic 3-course meal comprising an appetiser, entrée and dessert.

This menu will be integrated into the storyline of Hurstville, and takes the form of a rustic, 1930s-style banquet within the village, helping further add to the immersive quality of the production. A vegetarian option will also be available, and all guests will receive one drink, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

Underground is ready to take audience members out of their comfort zone once again, encourage them to be vulnerable, understand the mental and emotional struggles that plague society, and how to counter them.

Hurstville is a work that will require audience members to throw themselves fully into the intricate story that Underground has crafted, and whether you are seated at the banquet with the other villagers, asking for forgiveness in the chapel, or simply taking a breather at the coffee house, expect the unexpected, and get ready to discover a hidden side to yourself that makes modern life that much easier to bear.