There’s a white shipping container in Federation Square hiding a secret. Inside the cramped space there’s a long table between two rows of old cinema seats, which are facing each other. It’s dark in there. Then it gets darker.
First, you’ll put on headphones. Then the room is plunged into pitch darkness. A voice requests you put your hands on the table. Séance begins.
The word “seance” comes from the French word for a sitting or meeting, but we know it by the Victorian-era usage: the conjuring of spirits, led by a medium or spirit guide. It lends itself perfectly to this immersive performance from UK theatre-makers Darkfield and their Australian counterparts Realscape Productions.
“The darkness lets your mind take you places,” says producer Andrea Salazar. “In a theatre, you can’t really get out of the fact that you’re there. We wanted to control the space.”
And they do control it up to a point. Once I was enveloped in perfect darkness, the 3D audio design was so convincing I was never quite sure what was in my headphones and what was in the room. But the one variable the company can’t control is where people’s imaginations take them. Each audience member will bring their own experiences and beliefs to the table, depending on how they feel about everything from spiritualism to being in total darkness.
At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where Séance had its debut season earlier this year, sessions had to be aborted midway so audience members could get out.