Tag Archives: Glen Neath

Visitors

Visitors

★★★½

Online

Visitors

Visitors

Online from 6th October  via Darkfield

Reviewed – 2nd October 2020

★★★½

 

“It would make a brilliant beginning to a socially-distanced Halloween event”

 

Visitors is a short audio-immersive experience created for two people to share, each with a smartphone and headphones. There is an app to download and an access code to type in and the audio has been created to experience at home.

The tech all ran smoothly other than a slight hiccup at the very beginning: there is a clock countdown on the phone screen, which creates a certain amount of anticipation, and it was therefore very anti-climactic when nothing happened immediately on 0. There were a few minutes of dead time before the experience actually kicked in, which definitely took away from it somewhat. Given that this was a press preview however, there is every chance that this technical glitch will have been addressed before the experience goes fully live. Once it did actually begin however, it very quickly became completely absorbing, partly owing to the instruction to turn off all the lights. The sound quality was extraordinary and extremely unsettling. My son and I each had physical responses to it at certain moments, with the hair on my arms quite literally standing on end at one point; excellent vocal work from the two actors, Sonya Seva and Greer Dale-Ffoulkes, also perfectly conjured up an eerie, ethereal virtual space.

The narrative is slight, and the experience would benefit from being a little longer, but if you’re someone who enjoys a bit of titillating fear, Visitors most certainly fulfils the brief; it’s rather like a super high-tech 2020 version of a ghost train. It would make a brilliant beginning to a socially-distanced Halloween event, and is clearly an ingenious way to deal with the current COVID restrictions.

It’s certainly no substitute for live performance, but there’s clearly a future in this 21st century method of storytelling. It will be interesting to see (hear?) other, perhaps more complex, types of tale told in this way.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

 

Darkfield

Visitors

Online from 6th October  via Darkfield

 

Previously Darkfield review:
Darkfield: Séance – Flight – Coma | ★★★★ | King’s Cross | February 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Darkfield: Séance – Flight – Coma

★★★★

King’s Cross N1C

Darkfield

Darkfield: Séance – Flight – Coma

King’s Cross N1C

Reviewed – 28th February 2020

★★★★

 

“The absolute darkness means that you have no choice but to go along with the scenario being built for you”

 

You walk into one of three shipping containers and you enter a new, smaller world. You are sitting at a long table, bells dangling above you. You are in the economy seats of an aeroplane, putting your bags above you and finding your seat. You are in a clinical dormitory, walking past a broken coffee machine and picking a bunk bed to lie down on. You put the noise cancelling headphones over your ears and suddenly everything is pitch black.

These are the small worlds created by Darkfield, headed up by Artistic Directors David Rosenberg and Glen Neath. It feels limiting to call these immersive experiences ‘theatre’, as they blur the lines between spectator and participant and there are no actual actors on site. Using sound design, Neath and Rosenberg pull the audience into the world of a Séance, a Flight or a Coma. By manipulating the volume and location of the noises the audience hear, they are pulled through intense story lines, the space around them shifting and changing. The audience hears people walking past them, whispering in their ears, babies crying far away and spirits entering from the afterlife.

What makes these experiences so impactful is that, unlike a traditional horror film or play, the audience does not have the opportunity to check out. You can’t look to the side to see your friend or the trappings of a theatre. The absolute darkness means that you have no choice but to go along with the scenario being built for you.

This intensity is built not just through the sound engineering, however, but also through incredible set design. Although you only see your surroundings for a few minutes as you file in and take your seats, they are detailed and highly wrought. As you enter Flight, it is hard to remember your aren’t actually in a plane as you buckle your seatbelt, look at the No Smoking signs and examine the emergency instructions behind the seat in front of you. This level of detail means that when the lights go out you are doubly immersed; the last tangible reality you experienced was still one of this new world and as you try to orient yourself all you can remember is what it looks like around you.

The design of Coma is by far the most elaborate, with the rows of white, plastic bunk beds. As you lie down in each, there is to your side a spoon with a pill in it and a panel covered in gauze. This highly theatrical level of detail is necessary for Coma particularly because it operates in a far less familiar and more idiosyncratic soundscape. Where Séance uses the sounds and emblems we recognise from countless films and Flight uses the beeps and rumbles we know from flying, Coma does not have so equivalent a reality to anchor itself to. It does suffer a little from this and is the least frightening for that reason, as the audience have to do far more work orienting themselves and understanding how the world functions.

The stories the audience experience are, for the most part, conventional and vague. These technologies and techniques could be used to tell stories that are far more nuanced, for example, or urgent. To be totally immersed in a world not your own could be used for greater narrative effect. For the purpose of this particular installation, however, story is not the point. By taking away one of your primary senses and making the audience so vulnerable to suggestion, Darkfield takes things that have been hackneyed and replayed and reminds us why they are frightening. To go is to make old horrors newly horrific.

 

Reviewed by Cleo Henry

Photography by Sean Pollock

 

 

Darkfield: Séance – Flight – Coma

King’s Cross N1C

 

Previously reviewed by Cleo:
Body Talk | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
In The Beginning | ★★★★ | Katzpace Studio Theatre | February 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews