A bare stage greets us at the Gryphon Theatre.  It seems bigger than usual with a soundscape that hints at vast desolate spaces where the only thing alive is the whistling wind. Then noise! Lights! And a tattered creature that stutters out from the wings as if glimpsed by lightning flashes. Vladimir the Crow is a fan of humans and the way we are drawn to the dark side – monsters, spirits…other humans. He’s opened a portal to the other world for us to step through and explore the world of horror with him.

Paul Bourke is a committed performer with good Bouffon skills who can hold a character and interact with the audience. He keeps an earnest smile on his face as we take some time to warm up to the idea of what he wants us to do. (Be aware: he’s not afraid to clamber through the seats in search of someone who will play along.) Alternate reactions of pleased or horrified follow once we’ve understood. Bourke is supported by Darryn Woods on lights and Stephen Bourke on sound. Looping, distortion and other effects enhance the sometimes dreamy action on stage (and throughout the theatre). It feels as though there are several good set pieces in the show that have been stretched out. Consequently the experience is unnaturally even paced. Luckily it is entertaining if you let yourself fall into Vladimir’s world.

There are many invitations for audience participation so perhaps have a Garage Project #NZFringe beer (Cucumber, lime, mint flavours) from the bar before the show.