Review: Rippon Lea Estate Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears Exhibition25 March 2021
There is no better way to celebrate the fashion of Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears than by viewing it within Aunt Prudence’s very own home – otherwise known to non-Miss Fisher fanatics as Rippon Lea Estate in Elsternwick.
In 2012, the ABC premiered Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a detective series which followed the adventures of Phyrne Fisher and friends as they solved crimes in 1920s Melbourne. The series only lasted three seasons but a 1960s spinoff, Ms Fisher’s Modern Mysteries, ensued and was quickly followed by a Chinese adaptation, Miss S. What started as Kerry Greenwood’s book series about a daring ‘lady detective’ has transformed into a complex universe with an international cult following.
The interactive Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears Exhibition allows viewers to immerse themselves in the world of Phryne Fisher and friends by discovering clues to unravel the mystery behind some lost emeralds and break an ancient curse, all while being surrounded by stunning costumes inside a period home. Fans can immerse themselves in the world of their favourite detective by moving from room-to-room to view large-scale installations that incorporate fashion, film, sound effects and prop displays to bring the 1920s world of Miss Fisher to life.
Formal dresses and elegant suits worn during the scenes set in England are displayed in the home’s dining hall. The table is elaborately set with a lace tablecloth, dining set, fruit and candelabra fit for a 1920s dinner party. When I happened to attend, a live pianist was playing in the room which enhanced the act of admiring the costumes and made the experience of entering the adjacent room where a noisy aeroplane projection flew overhead slightly jarring, even if it did separate the spaces.
Costume designer Margot Wilson provides an insight into the stories behind costumes, such as how the film’s scenery, action-packed scenes, and character interactions informed the design choices. However, this information contains mostly ‘fun facts’ and the experience would have been enhanced by the addition of sketches or sample materials. As well as creating more interesting exhibition, this would have broadened the appeal to fashion design enthusiasts.
Ultimately, this exhibition is meant to appeal to Miss Fisher fans and fans alone. An entire room within the exhibition is even dedicated to the romantic coupling fondly referred to as ‘Phrack’ (Phyrne & Jack). Fans can watch cast and crew interviews discussing the famous pair and the appeal of the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ couple and reminisce over the series.
While not the focus of the exhibition, I found the featured props to be more interesting than the costumes. Replica knives, in-character photographs, old typewriters and a well-placed bottle of whiskey breathed life into the exhibition and tied it together. The most impressive room did not feature costumes at all and would have been missed if it weren’t for the guidance of a volunteer. Keep an eye out for the Professor’s room filled with Egyptian prints and prop replicas such as lanterns, typewriters, pottery, maps and art. If half of the attention to detail featured in this one room were present throughout the exhibition would been exceptional.
The unexpected highlight of the Crypt of Tears exhibition was interacting with the enthusiastic volunteers who happily answered any questions I had relating to the history of Rippon Lea and the filming which has taken place within. However, if you are not a fan of Miss Fisher, it may be worth suspending your visit until the mannequins and large-scale installations are removed and the estate’s antique furniture returned so you can experience Rippon Lea in its full glory
Find more information about the Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears Exhibition here.