Review: Coma at Summerhall
3★★★

Darkfield has developed a reputation for its immersive theatre. Their last two shows, Seance and Flight, have used the same conceit of immersing their audiences in total darkness in a shipping container. The kind of darkness where you can’t see your own hand in front of your face. This is combined with binaural sound- a soundscape that mimics the feeling of movement around your body. The combination means you left totally disorientated in the limitless blackness.

Going in blank to Coma is a dangerous business. After two weeks of the fringe, most of the ‘audience’ is game for anything that would make a show go well. So, when a calming, authoritative voice told us to swallow the pill which appeared on the bedside table of the vinyl bunkbeds, most of us swallowed without a moment’s hesitation. An uneasy sense of distortion followed, that had nothing to do with the inert pill, but everything to do with darkness and suggestion. 

A dream sequence is delivered through the headphones complete with sounds, movement and smells that recreated the vulnerable paralysation of being in a waking coma. The whiff of bitter almond was particularly affecting, bring back memories of Rold Dahl horror stories. 

Emerging from the shipping container, many of the audience were shaking. For those who wish to bring this feeling to the fore, it’s the perfect trip. However, the vagueness of the piece meant that this was more of a house of horror show than a piece of theatre to make you reflect on anything in particular. A scary movie without a message.

Coma, Summerhall (Terrace), until 25 Aug, various times.

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