★★★★ out of ★★★★★ These unsettling vignettes involving clever audio effects may be just the “something different” you’ve been looking for.
Created by David Rosenberg and Glen Neath
While most of us wait for our dose of vaccine (microchips be damned!) and the pandemic rages on, we still spend a lot more time in front of our screens than we used to. I know I do! Netflix, Shudder, and other streaming services flood our eyeballs with a never ending torrent of visual distraction.
Not that things of the videographical persuasion are bad. Far from it! They’re mainly why we’re all hanging out here at The Scariest Things! To revel in our collective love for our favorite movies, TV shows, and short films. But, every now and then, it can be fun to branch out into something different.
A few years ago, before the world fell victim to its most recent viral invasion, experimental theater creators David Rosenberg and Glen Neath founded the Darkfield theater company. Their shows were performed in total can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face darkness inside specially designed shipping containers. Audience members wore headphones and the shows’ binaural sound recordings — recordings made using 2 microphones to simulate a 3-D environment on playback — presented a singular experience.
Once COVID-19 reared its round, spiky face, cramming an audience into a shipping container no longer seemed like such a good idea and Darkfield Radio was born! Now, with the help of some headphones and an app on your phone, you can experience the same immersive audio-only format in the comfort of your own home.
Having just recently opened for the North American time zones, there are currently three experiences available from Darkfield Radio. Each one runs between 20-30 minutes and are (as described by the Darkfield team themselves):
Double is a troubling exercise in familiarity that explores the Capgras delusion, a condition in which the sufferer is convinced that a loved one has been replaced by an exact replica with malign intentions. There is only one rule: everyone has to be who they say they are. Note – Double made history as the first audio-only experience to be selected for the Venice International Film Festival – one of the three most prestigious film festivals in the world.
Visitors introduces a dead couple into the audience’s home, looking for a temporary solution to their permanent condition. Visitors is a reflection on our irrepressible desire to touch and why the dead find so little comfort in the world of the living. Note – Visitors was an Official Selection for the Raindance Film Festival 2020 and was nominated for two awards: Outstanding Achievement in Audio and Best Narrative.
Eternal is designed for one person to experience alone in their bed. The show explores the lure of eternal life, and what you would willingly give up to achieve it. Eternal is inspired by Bram Stoker’s renowned work, Dracula, after originally being commissioned by the Bram Stoker Festival.
Having generously been given the opportunity to check out both Double and Eternal I have to say calling them “shows” feels like an inadequate description. These are experiences. They can be trippy, unsettling, and disorienting. They can make you feel as if your personal space is being invaded and provoke feelings of anxiety, claustrophobia, and nervousness.
They’re also wonderful gateway experiences for those curious about our favorite genre, but for whom a modern horror movie might be far too visceral. For example, while we both thought Double was cool, my non-horror-loving wife came away from Eternal proclaiming, “Nooope! No, thank you. Nope, nope, nope.”
Apparently, that one was a bit outside her comfort zone.
As with most experiences, what you get out of your time with Darkfield Radio depends on what you put in. In an interview with Theatre Weekly, one of the creators said:
A punter once used the phrase “you have to lean into them,” to describe their experience of the shows, which I like. I always think they are completed by the audience member. To a degree, they design their own show in their own head. The people who give themselves up to the experience enjoy them the most.