by Glen Neath.
bac Lavender Hill To 17 July 2015.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 July.
Well-engineered drama in the dark.
Tell someone you’ve been to the theatre and it’s not unreasonable they’d ask what you saw. It could seem churlish to say ‘nothing’, and more than the average acquaintance expects for you to launch into an examination of what they mean by ‘seeing’.
The shows David Rodenberg and Glen Neath have devised for Battersea Arts Centre aren’t the first to take place, deliberately, in absolute darkness, but they have gained a lead in accompanying this with binaural sound.
This kind of super-subtle stereo means audience-members equipped with headphones hear with detail and clarity sounds distinguished as distant or close, approaching or receding. The particular feature both of Fiction and their earlier success Ring is the voice that sounds close-up and personal.
It has a particular distinction as a reassuringly warm, individual whisper more intimate than, and in a different zone from, other sounds, which it’s easy to believe are heard by everyone.
Fiction opens with some light, supposing that half the audience is there to guide the other half – hence the individual voice seeming to speak only to you. While there are no terror tactics, opening slides suggest anxiety (‘this is your last chance to leave…’), people who arrive together are separated and it’s suggested the comfortable, separate chairs are part of some conference which lacks a speaker.
Presumably this leads us to nod off and experience subsequent sounds in the blackness as a dream (in reality, its likely everyone kept waiting would reach for their mobiles). The soundscape certainly has the jumps in experience, the vivid reality of moments, the recurrences, sometimes irritating in their repetition, which feature in dreams.
Maybe there’s a question of a collective subconscious, but the surrounding dark and aural focus on the headphones meant the usual awareness of being in an audience is replaced by the individual experience.
The story elements are sufficiently disparate to stay in the memory like dreamed fragments, and the only let-down is the end, a crescendo of sound which leads to sudden ‘awaking’ as lights shine full-strength. More theatrical shock than awakened consciousness, somehow you could see it coming.
Cast: Christopher Brett Bailey, Colin Carmichael, Karen Cogan, Catherine Dyson, Lloyd Hutchinson, Eugénie Pastor.
Director: David Rodenberg.
Video: Susanne Dietz.
Sound/Music: Ben and Max Ringham.