Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

Review: Flight at Summerhall

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Review: Flight at Summerhall

Theatre group Darkfield take the same principle that makes films so much more immersive when viewed in the dark – that hypnotic feeling of sensory deprivation – and amps it up to extreme proportions in their latest production, Flight.

Following a similar premise to last year’s Séance, viewers are invited aboard an experience much more theme-park ride than theatre. Stripped of all visuals (the performance takes place in utter darkness), Flight instead carves a path for a new form of audio-sensory entertainment.

Eschewing live actors, forty or so ‘passengers’ are welcomed aboard Flight by an Aeroflot-like stewardess shown on fold-down screens, prompting viewers to put on their headsets before all goes black. The rest of the 30-minute performance is delivered via pre-recorded audio – though believe me, this can’t be replicated at home with a podcast.  

Flight’s surround sound sensation is brilliant—the movement in the aisles behind, the murmuring of other passengers, the flight attendant reaching across you to hand a drink to your seatmate all feel startling real.  While binaural audio is neither new (search ‘Virtual Barber Shop’ on YouTube) nor as high-tech as it seems (your brain does most of the work), Darkfield takes it to the next level by eliminating all visual distraction and adding a sensory element.

Believability is bolstered with great attention to detail, down to the boarding passes, overhead bins, and seats appearing to have come from an actual commercial jet. I even found myself fastening my seatbelt, forgetting we were in a stationary shipping container.

Thrill-seeking participants may have been left slightly disappointed – there were no jump-scares or blood and guts, only philosophical musings on Schrödinger’s cat, reminding us that this is still theatre, not a horror attraction. One can only hope that this is the future of all live entertainment.

Flight, Summerhall, until 26 Aug, every half hour between 1pm-9.30pm