Are you afraid of the dark? Hi, I’m the Director of Social Media for Playbill and good lord, do I have an experience to tell you about. Now first, imagine that a friend says to you, “Hey, wanna go sit in a small, enclosed room in complete darkness, void of any light and then have the most intense ASMR experience of your life?”
Two thoughts might come to your mind. First, you may ask, “Who is this friend and why do they hate me so much?” Second, you might say to yourself, “Self, aren’t I open to trying something new? Didn’t I come to Edinburgh Festival Fringe to experience experimental and unique theatre?” Well, if you listened to your second thought, then you’re in for quite the adventure.
Darkfield, the U.K.-based creators of immersive, audio theatrical experiences, return to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The company brought Séance and Flight to ArtsDistrict Brooklyn in July of 2022. This year, Darkfield brings Séance and Eulogy to Pleasance Dome’s Potterrow Plaza. Each of the company’s productions take place inside a 40-foot shipping container. Dear Reader, some of my recollections of these shows are…muddy. As you will understand from reading this article, I was not able to take notes. And thus, this is all from my best recollection. Best of luck comprehending my memories of this very wild ride.
We begin with Séance. You enter the Pleasance’s Dome courtyard where two white shipping containers lay mysterious in the open. One marked Séance and the other Eulogy. As you walk up to the entrance of Séance, a headless mannequin looms over you, inviting you in…or is he warning you to make a run for it?
You enter the shipping container and see a long wooden table almost the length of the unit, with a white tablecloth laid over it. Maroon velvet upholstered chairs line both sides of the table and you are instructed to file in and take a seat. As you find your chair, you’re asked to put on the headphones that sit beside each chair. Once everyone has placed their headphones on their heads and have gotten comfortable…blackout!
Dear Reader, when I use the term blackout, I mean…BLACK. OUT. You cannot see the hand directly in front of your face. You might think your eyes would adjust to the lack of light, but they will not. You are in complete DARKNESS, as if living out a page ripped out of your nightmare diary. Your senses go into overdrive, attempting to make up for your lack of sight.
Suddenly a noise. Footsteps. Is there someone in the room? Are those real footsteps or audio coming from your headset? A voice explains that you are here for a Séance to connect to spirits from the beyond. He instructs everyone to place their hands on the table and at no point are you to remove your hands from the table, for fear of letting something…out. For the next 20 minutes, you listen in the darkness as the voice from behind you moves around the room (or is he just the sounds in your headphones) as talks to different participants in the room. He asks questions, he give them instructions, he begins to call out names of spirits reaching through. But suddenly, something otherworldly is trying to come through. Pandemonium! Screams! You hear the footsteps of people running around the room. Loud thuds hit the ground. Are those people?!? Did someone take their hands off the table? They weren’t supposed to take their hands of the table!!! One by one, the screams dissipate until there is only one voice begging for help but then…it is gone too.
Suddenly there is a voice whispering in your left ear. He’s apologizing that this is happening to you. He didn’t mean for this to happen…but then you realize he is not alone. Something monstruous and not from this world is breathing, growling, and snarling in your right ear now. Who is it? What is it? And what happens next? To find out, I think you’ll have to experience Séance for yourself.
Next on the docket is Eulogy. Now this setup is quite different than our last adventure. As you walk into this shipping container, you are handed a card. You’re told to find the name on your card and claim its seat. As you enter the room, you notice immediately that this is much different that your previous experience. The room is lined with 6-foot-tall individual open-faced cages.
Dear Reader, cages might be too harsh of a term for the seating here, but they are individual metal units that are divided by metal bars…like that of an animal’s cage. So, see the photos yourself to determine if cage is the correct term.
Once finding your card’s name, you take your (caged) seat and reach for your soundproof headphones. But wait, there is something different about these headphones. They have headpiece microphones attached to them. Are you about to relive the 2000s as Britney, Christina, or the boys of JLS (that’s a British boyband because I’m writing this article from theU.K.) Probably not, but a boy can dream.
Once everyone is comfortable, guess what happens? Yes, you return to the land of darkness and nightmares, but what does this journey have in store? A robotic/AI like voice comes into your ears. It instructs you to answer questions like: “Are you allergic to shellfish? Did you have work at a hotel?” You know, just your run of the mill questions for starting a blind ASMR experience.
Suddenly you hear an elevator ding, a rush of cool air blows on your face. Air? This is a new experience. Feet and voices are heard moving about the room. In the distance, you hear different voices saying at different times, “Hello, I’m your guide.” Guide? Why do I need a guide?
You’re told they will be helping you “advance” and make it to the next levels. Levels? What levels you wonder? Are you in a hospital? Are you in a psych ward? (That answer would make a lot of sense looking back at your life choices that have led you to this place and time)
Suddenly you hear a woman’s soft voice behind your left ear. She tells you her name and it's the same name as the one on the card and your (caged) spot. She is your guide, and they will be taking you to your room. But first she says, close your eyes, take deep breaths, and go to sleep. After a few moments, you hear the noises of a wheels from a cart or gurney moving. You’re being moved (well actually, it just sounds like you’re being moved—this is a shipping container after all, there’s nowhere to go).
Again, the bell of an elevator goes off and you feel the cool breeze hit your face for a moment. She wheels you into a room and parks you. You hear her move about the room. She talks to you and mentions there is an ornament on a table, and that you almost knocked it off when you were stirring about. She moves it for you. There is a knock on the door. There is a man trying to come in. He is another guide, but…he wants to spend time with your guide? He is flirty in his tone. He wants to hang out but he’s away from his guest. She tells him he is to never leave his guest’s side. But he doesn’t care, he wants to be with her.
Now you hear yelling from a nearby room. It’s his guest. The guest is scared and yelling for help, but the male guide doesn’t care. He laughs it off. Your guide gets him to leave, but once she is alone with you, she yells, “Be careful of the ornament!” CRASH! Suddenly your (cage) chair, the storage unit, and your soul is shaken. And not rhetorically, I mean physically shook. It’s as if someone turned on the world’s largest stereo’s bass and hit a note to shake your entire being.
What the f@*% just happened?
You may have been so surprised by this sudden shake that you screamed as if you were in a horror film (and let’s not forget that you are still in complete darkness). But who’s to say, because everyone is wearing soundproof headphones, and no one can corroborate whether I screamed you screamed or not. As the next 20 minutes go by, you listen to yourself carted and then physically shaken into new rooms, new levels, and even…back in time? All culminating in a finale that I, Dear Reader, will not be spoiling.
To summarize, Darkfield has created two theatrical productions that take audiences on incredibly unique audio immersive experiences. By removing the ability to see, Séance and Eulogy manipulate its audiences’ fears of the unknown and force them to confront a much more sinister character: their imagination. For Fringe goers looking for a memorable experience at this year’s festival, Darkfield is ready to provide. Séance and Eulogy can be found in front of the Pleasance Dome in the Potterrow Plaza from now until August 28.