Nervous flyers, be warned.
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Amid the carnivalesque atmosphere of this year’s Garden of Unearthly Delights sits a white shipping container. Inside, it’s decked out to replicate an Airbus 320. Like any flight, passengers are handed boarding passes as we shuffle into the cramped cabin. Once we've taken our seats, we adjust our headsets and a flight attendant welcomes everyone aboard via the overhead speaker.
It’s a familiar scene. But as the muffled inflight announcements become increasingly more disturbing, it is apparent that this plane may not land safely. The grumbling sound of turbulence reverberates through the cabin and all the lights go out.
The team behind Séance – UK immersive-theatre company Darkfield – has returned to Adelaide Fringe with its newest unsettling performance, Flight. After its debut season at Edinburgh Fringe last year, creator David Rosenberg, in collaboration with Australia’s Realscape Productions, has brought the experience to the Garden of Unearthly Delights for the entirety of the Fringe.
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.
It’s unclear which one we're experiencing, until the end. But take comfort knowing Flight doesn’t petrify its audience so much as leave us feeling uneasy, dwelling on what could have been in another world.