Following on from my previous experiences with Darkfield’s Flight and Séance, I was looking forward to Coma. It has now arrived along with the other two shows as a binaural, immersive theatrial experience in shipping containers – at the Perth Fringe Festival.
Imagine the moment of waking up is actually the moment when your dream begins. In light of this new and strange reality, how can we save you from the unspeakable horrors which lurk in the dark recesses of your mind? The only cure we offer is a placebo and a promise. Please remember when you leave to take your body with you.
We enter the shipping container, which has sets of bunks on the sides of the walls, three stacked high. I slid into a lower bunk and noticed grills on the wall (perhaps for a fan or light outlet?) At one point after mentioning scents, I was led to think I could smell them. Like another Darkfield show, Flight, perhaps a vacuum or air blower was used to give the illusion of movement. All of this is uncertain, because of the complete darkness!
Halfway through, I started thinking of a particular scene from Shakespeare’s Henry IV:
…But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue: no, Percy, thou art dust
And food for–
For worms, brave Percy: fare thee well, great heart!
How willing am I to experience a death-like situation, to be placed in a scenario with no sight, controlled sound and my ‘imaginary’ life in another’s hands – to be potentially ‘worm-food’? To be in a coma, or completely dependent state, under the hands of a more powerful force?
Into this darkness we are led through an experiment, where imagination and reality are tested in a quasi-meditation scenario. As the story began, I wondered how trusting I was about being protected and trusting the experimenter. How safe are we in testing, when the experimenter seemed to be under threat, perhaps even from one of the unseen in-the-dark ‘us’? Our hearing misleads us, our pills might be real or placebo, and what if things have indeed gone wrong in the dark – how would we know?
In comparison I think the philosophical concepts that Coma is exploring isn’t as well defined as other shows I’ve attended? There’s similar themes of community delusion, of exploring isolation whilst in a group and a familiar “Darkfield” quirky sense of humor is present throughout.
I am interested in visiting this show again to see if I have a different perspective from another immersion. However, I continue to be impressed by the construct, storytelling and the three dimensional aural environment presented through the use of binaural recordings. And one again, I consider myself incredibly privileged to experience this performance (and more on my schedule to come) in 2021.