Séance, VAULT Festival

by Joanna Trainor

Séance is one of two productions that Darkfield have brought to the VAULT Festival this year, and this sensory explosion is not one for the faint-hearted.

The audio skills in Séance are as extraordinary as the title suggests. Binaural sound completely overwhelms, and the complete darkness in the shipping container means the main sense relied on is hearing. During a séance, you want your wits about you so you can question everything.

Before entering the room you’re told that everything happens through the headphones, but just as the guide is about to leave he asks if you can hear him clap. “Why do I also need to hear what’s going on in the room”, you think. Are they already deceiving us?

The whole piece is full of these little messages to sway your thinking, and the audio is so clever that it’s impossible to tell whether there are people in the container with you or not. When he’s whispering in your ear, you’re half convinced you can feel his breath on your neck – Darkfield rob you of your ability to perceive what’s real and what’s not.

Most importantly, it is a properly scary experience. I don’t want to say too much, because scares are best when you don’t see them coming. But trigger warning fans rejoice – you are told before you enter that it’s going to be pitch black and might feel claustrophobic, so if you need to centre yourself you can just remove you headphones. It takes 30 seconds to share that warning and doesn’t ruin the experience at all; it could be vitally important to an audience member. Top work Darkfield, extra brownie points for you.

Intelligent and terrifying theatre at its best – I’m off to get a ticket for their next show, Flight. Though I must add that it was me. I took my hands off the table.

Séance runs until 7 March.

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