Amid the carnivalesque atmosphere of this year’s Garden of Unearthly Delights at the Adelaide Fringe Festival sat a white shipping container. Inside, it was decked out to replicate a commercial passenger plane. Passengers were handed boarding passes as they shuffled into the cramped cabin. Once they’d taken their seats and adjusted their headsets, a flight attendant welcomed everyone aboard via the overhead speaker.
It’s a familiar scene. But as the muffled inflight announcements became increasingly more disturbing, it became apparent the plane might not land safely. The grumbling sound of turbulence reverberated through the cabin. And then the lights went out.
This is Flight, the newest unsettling performance from UK immersive-theatre company Darkfield, the team behind Séance. After its debut season at Edinburgh Fringe last year, creator David Rosenberg, in collaboration with Australia’s Realscape Productions, took the experience to the Garden of Unearthly Delights for the entirety of the Fringe and then Brisbane. And now it's coming to Melbourne.
Like Séance before it, Flight takes place in complete darkness and inside a shipping container. But this time the creators tap into a universal fear: being 30,000 feet above ground and powerless.
“In Séance we’re dealing with the supernatural and fears of the unknown,” Rosenberg tells Broadsheet. “In Flight we’re dealing with far more recognisable fears that everyone has a fleeting moment of concern about.”
For the audience, that fear is amplified by sensory deprivation (the cabin is plunged into total darkness) and binaural sound recordings (3D audio transmitted directly to each audience member). Throughout the flight unnerving creaks, whispers, sounds of children crying and phones ringing play out on the periphery. With the absence of visuals these sounds take on lives of their own, and audience members are never sure of what they’re experiencing for real.
“If you remove the image, the way that you’re able to play with the other senses is really interesting,” says Rosenberg. “It is the audience’s imagination that allows these performances to work and makes it oddly personal.”
Underpinning it all is the theory of quantum mechanics. Those who subscribe to it claim that “if at any point there is more than one potential outcome of any event, both of them happen but they will happen in different worlds,” says Rosenberg.
Flight is running at Queensbridge Square, Southbank until December 8. Tickets are available online.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on September 10, 2019.