“Hey there, do you like thrilling experiences and shipping containers? Norwich Theatre has just the thing!”
That’s not quite how it was sold to me, but approaching the aforesaid shipping container outside The Forum on a wet Thursday evening, that was pretty much all I knew about what was in store. Sure, I’d read something about binaural sound and tried my hardest to comprehend it, but what I learned from DARKFIELD: EULOGY is that it’s really one of those things you need to experience to truly understand.
To be clear, although it’s hosted by Norwich Theatre, this production is part of their ‘Beyond’ initiative, and is more of an immersive event rather than theatre. It’s a performance of sorts, but it’s more about stimulating and heightening your senses as the narrative, of which you’re a central part, plays out around you.
So what happened, you might ask? Well, I can’t give much away as the mystery of the story is part of its appeal, however, once inside the container, I was led to an individual compartment where I was told to put on some headphones. After a bit of spiel about what I might feel (and an opportunity to leave if I felt it might be overwhelming), the story then began in earnest. The lights went out, and I was plunged into darkness - and I mean pitch-black not-able-to-sense-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face kind of darkness.
I was asked a series of random-seeming questions, which I answered through a mic attached to my headset. The reason for the questions became clear later in the story, but for the sake of not spoiling it, I can’t reveal why. I was then assigned a chaperone who, after a bit of interaction with some hotel staff, leads you to your room, and that’s really all I can tell you about the narrative without giving anything away. Besides, it appeared that you were able to determine your own story to a certain degree depending on your responses, but it just so happened that my son and I both answered our questions in the same way and therefore followed the same path.
The ‘show’ was really all about the wizardry of sound though, which helped create a very vivid picture in my mind of where I was being led, and what was happening around me. The thoroughly impressive binaural sound also managed to create the illusion that there was someone talking right in front of my face, or behind me, rather than simply in either ear as you might expect wearing headphones. There were other clever effects too, such as the feeling that there were people walking up and down corridors outside your room (doesn’t sound impressive written down I grant you – but you have to feel it to understand it, trust me). There was also the occasional hefty thump (of sound, I might add) which gets you right in your chest, and suddenly puts you on high alert that something’s about to happen.
Of course, having my sense of sight taken away meant I was far more susceptible to frights than usual. Although there was nothing overtly frightening about the show, the atmosphere created had me on edge throughout.
I'd call it a tense, nerve-jangling experience rather than a thrilling one, but I appreciate the word ‘thrilling’ is better-placed to help shift tickets! Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience (well, as enjoyable as gripping your knees for the best part of half an hour can be), and with a slightly clearer narrative and a few more hair-raising moments, it could easily be as thrilling as it purports to be. Perhaps a similar immersive story would work well around Halloween?
It’s definitely worth a look for something a bit different, and the sounds really do have to be heard to be appreciated fully. DARKFIELD: EULOGY continues at Norwich Theatre Beyond, outside The Forum until 26 March. Tickets are available via norwichtheatre.org