Eulogy at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“Even the title should be enough to make your palms sweat”
If you’re up for a really different theatrical challenge, which includes sitting in pitch darkness for 35 minutes in a shipping container—I recommend Darkfield’s Eulogy. More diffident souls, however, may want to think a bit before signing up for this one. That’s not because Eulogy isn’t well done. On the contrary, it’s extremely well executed. It’s dark (literally), ironic, and deeply unsettling. The binaural experience of Eulogy is created in an environment that is completely devoid of any features that anchor you to the “real” world outside the shipping container. When they say you will be placed in utter darkness for 35 minutes, they mean what they say. And the headphones you wear will remove any sounds that could help orient you in a familiar world. For 35 minutes, you are about to embark upon a journey, in a mysterious hotel, completely dependent upon the guide they have assigned for you. And this guide doesn’t seem to know much about the place you are staying in.
Anxious yet? Because that’s the point with Eulogy. Even the title should be enough to make your palms sweat. If you are a more than normally anxious person, you probably shouldn’t sign up for this. But the Darkfield team is conscientious enough to ask you a few questions beforehand, and even give you a couple of ways of exiting this experience if it becomes overpowering. Because powerful Eulogy is. Starting with the “hotel suite” you are given when you enter the performance space. It’s not uncomfortable, and is perfectly fine for under an hour, but the cage that surrounds you might make you feel more like a factory farm chicken than a hotel guest. More anxiety. You’ll put on your headphones, and immediately hear the soothing tones of your personal guide, who promises she will never leave you. Uh huh.
If you haven’t exited by this point, you’ll be invited to close your eyes and try to sleep. Which is of course impossible with all the confusing sounds and contradictory instructions coming through your headphones. But that’s OK, because what’s cool about the binaural experience of Eulogy is the knowledge that no one in the shipping container with you, is having exactly the same experience. Directors David Rosenberg and Glen Neath have devised a piece where everyone ends up in more or less the same place. But it is the diversions, prompted by your “yes” or “no” answers to the questions in your headphones, that promise experiences rather different than say, all sitting together in the auditorium at the National Theatre. When the story is in the carefully curated sounds around you and your personalized response to them, then you become the star, as it were, of your own show. (Ably supported by the voice talents of Noa Bodner, Christopher Brett Bailey, Sonya Selva, Branden Burke, Rodrig Andrison, Dorothea Jones, Mélusine Lenoir and Nigel Barrett and others.) And yes, it’s easy to forget that there is a real world out there, because as the story progresses, in a very dreamlike way, it’s equally easy to forget who you once were. There’s probably a moral to all this forgetting, but I have forgotten what it was.
You’ll emerge from Eulogy a changed person. To say exactly how changed would be to give spoilers. So if you’re up for a performative experience quite unlike anything you’ve ever had before, go. But it’s a bit like getting on a roller coaster. You may love it, you may be uncertain about bits of it. But one thing is for sure. Once you commit, you’re on for the ride of a lifetime. Good luck!
Reviewed 5th August 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Alex Purcell
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