Gabrielle Rose as Helena Blavatsky

The seemingly eternal fight between religion and science, and the interaction between spirituality, matter and energy: Those are the basic postulates that mark SFU Contemporary Arts Faculty’s most recent play, “The Secret Doctrine”. This substantial work is based in the real story Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), widely regarded as a pioneer of the modern New Age movement and founder of the Theosophical Society.

The play takes the audience through an amazing storyline that follows Richard Hodgson (Frank Zotter), a young Canadian physicist, in his pursuit to untangle the mysteries behind the paranormal phenomena attributed to Helena Blavatsky (Gabrielle Rose) from a scientific perspective. His efforts get him to follow Blavatsky all the way to India, where Blavatsky and her most loyal disciple, Henry Olcott (Simon Webb) have moved by spiritual orders from the ‘Mahatmas’. There, Hodgson gets to study Blavatsky and to interact with some of her followers and detractors, while attempting to scientifically prove (or reject) Blavatsky’s powers and theories – despite her constant refusals to allow Hodgson to perform such investigations.

This production is noted by the richness of the special sound and lighting effects used throughout the play, along with ambience music to create mystical environments. The work by Martin Gotfrit (Sound Designer) is especially outstanding.

Also noteworthy is the ability to create a multidimensional experience for the audience, where the play does not only happen on stage, but also outside of it – sometimes above the audience, sometimes on its sides – providing a 360° sensorial experience to spectators. This peripheral experience is smoothly mixed with very dynamic changes of scenery and props, which provide a sense of continuity to the play despite of the frequent changes of context and atmosphere required by the nature of this work.

“The Secret Doctrine” is a very rich work that requires high levels of concentration from spectators in order to follow the unusually high amount of information – which includes character backgrounds, historical facts, scientific and spiritual theories and doctrines, and so forth. Nevertheless, the play is very engaging and manages to keep the audience following through seamlessly.

Presenting at SFU Woodward’s, this production of “The Secret Doctrine” is written by Patricia Gruben and directed by Ines Buchli, and runs from July 2nd until July 6th, 2013.