Seven Tyrants Theatre Society, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization, once again opened Judge Dee’s Chinatown Haunted House open to fright-seekers during the Halloween season. This event is not suitable for children, nor for the faint of heart. A conversation with the company’s artistic producers, Daniel Doerksen and David Newham, revealed everything need-to-know about this unique event.
Seven Tyrants specializes in adapting classical works to suit modern audiences. As Newham explained, it produces “multidisciplinary performance pieces utilizing actors, musicians [and] dancers in order to create content that’s relevant to a global audience.” In addition, this organization proudly holds the achievement of creating over a dozen original Canadian plays.
Merging fact and fiction, this event is based on both Judge Dee, the historical figure in Tang Dynasty China, and the Judge Dee character from Robert van Gulik’s murder-mystery book series. Dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of China,” Judge Dee has historically played the role of detective, judge, and executor. He is known for solving gruesome crimes and administering harsh punishments to criminals.
Every year, the concept behind the event becomes more elaborate.
This Halloween season marked the Chinatown Haunted House’s fifth anniversary, and this time around it held even more performers. As an event quickly growing in popularity, it delivers powerful acting and live music in a performance that draws visitors into the spooky world of Judge Dee.
The Haunted House is situated in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, where surprises await at every twist and turn. According to Doerksen, the performance is great because it “gives people what they’re looking for but not expecting.”
One might wonder how a terrifying haunted house can be reconciled with a tranquil garden environment, but Doerksen expressed that it’s quite natural and similar to how any wonderful palace can also be creepy at night with all of its long hallways that can go off into unpopulated corners.
Based on gardens from the 15th century, the setting also compliments visitors’ experience with elegant scenery, including trees and a central pond. Visitors make their way through an engaging narrative as they navigate the stone pathways. “The garden is a terrific venue, a beautiful space unlike any other in Vancouver in terms of architecture and serenity,” Newham explained. Entertainment and terror are all rolled into one in this exciting performance.
If you missed it this year, be sure to catch the Chinatown Haunted House next Halloween season!