Immersive experience review: Firelight Labyrinth, Marvel Stadium

A visual and audio experience inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus delivers on some fronts, but falls behind competitors.
‘Firelight Labyrinth’ underneath Marvel Stadium, as part of Firelight Festival. Photo: ArtsHub. A dark underground carpark space filled with volumetric displays of LED lights, glowing in light blue.

By pitching itself as Australia’s ‘largest volumetric LED installation’ and ‘world premiere’ underground light show, Firelight Labyrinth is up against a lot of competition. Event dates overlap with the return of Lightscape at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, and the car park model instantly brings to mind RISING’s Golden Square Chinatown activation in 2021/22. Beings by Universal Everything at ACMI would tick the indoor prerequisite, and is not a bad option for families.

But Firelight Labyrinth’s brief offers a bit more than a light spectacle – it is inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and adopts Ariadne‘s red thread that led the hero out of the monster’s labyrinth as a continuous visual cue.

‘Firelight Labyrinth’. Photo: ArtsHub. Red LED light tubes snaking through the underground carpark, illuminating the entire space.
‘Firelight Labyrinth’. Photo: ArtsHub.

Visitors enter the underground car park of Marvel Stadium, guided by the red LED thread that sets an ominous tone. After an archway with speckly light projections, three cubed light installations invite interaction through movement capturing, which is then recreated (a little abstractly) through the tiny LEDs. This technology is most responsive when the participant stands around two strides away.

The final space is where most of the action occurs, as the lights shift, pulse and change colour to recreate the tense atmosphere of Theseus’ escape from the labyrinth. At one point the lights seem to form the outline of a figure escaping, while at others they appear thunderous, accompanied by smoke effects. The light display runs on a 15-minute loop, accompanied by the soundtrack ‘Half Dark’ by Nick Wales, which does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of adding depth and dramatic effect to the visual storytelling.

But one of the shortcomings of Firelight Labyrinth is that visitors are unsure of how much it’s got to give when first entering the space. The installation itself appears rather modest in scale for all that’s been emphasised around Melbourne’s newest light and audio feast, especially considering it is housed beneath the monstrous 53,000-seat sports stadium. People could instantly associate it with “big”, but sadly this is not something Firelight Labyrinth lives up to.

It does deliver on the family-friendly and accessibility front, even if retention is a little low. When this reviewer visited (the night of the preview, 27 June), most visitors made their way through the entire installation within 10 minutes, save for those taking photos and videos.

Read: Installation review: Lightscape, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Firelight Labyrinth works as an attractive complement to the Docklands Firelight Festival (28-30 June). Yet, judging it as a stand-alone destination – for a few extra dollars you can see more at Lightscape and get some steps in while you’re at it.

Firelight Labyrinth is presented by Mandylights as part of Firelight Festival and runs until 14 July; tickets $22-$37.50 (family of four $115).

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne and was most recently engaged in consultation for the Emerging Writers’ Festival and ArtsGen. Instagram @lleizy_