Pros: An innovative and exciting introduction to binaural theatre, quite unlike any other theatrical experience.
Cons: Not enough was made of the fact the show was taking place live with other audience members present.
David Rosenberg has had quite an experimental career in theatre. As well as being a co-founder of Shunt, a company that explores the role of the audience, he has worked widely to develop the use of binaural sound in theatre (The Roof, Electric Hotel). This is his second collaboration with Glen Neath, following on from Ring in 2012. Both productions take place in darkness, with the audience wearing headphones.
This is certainly an interesting concept – the elimination of the visual aspect of theatre to concentrate almost exclusively on the sound. It heightens the audience’s senses in a unique way, and paves the way for a new world of possibility for sound in theatre. I was encouraged to see this being explored and developed, but I still feel there is more to discover.
It is unclear what is actually happening for the duration of the piece. Upon entering, the audience is separated from whomever they have come with, briefly shown some pictures of a hotel and then submerged in blackness.
We are guided through the story by a gentle female voice, who describes the journey for us, telling us to fall asleep. Every so often we ‘wake up’ and are soothed back to sleep. This is complemented by a range of sound effects to convey the location – are we outdoors? In a hotel? The lack of visual stimulus allows the other senses greater clarity and gives our imagination more room to play than in a traditional theatre production.
In contrast to the duo’s earlier production Ring, I felt like this show did not make enough out of the fact that we are present in a theatre full of other people. I felt too safe in the room. This is a show that could be experienced at home, or anywhere, and to be effective in a theatre I think it needs to make a bit more use of the live nature of performance.
However, it was a fascinating exploration of human consciousness and the way dreams and the senses operate. Although I feel like this production didn’t quite nail it, I am excited to see where binaural sound takes theatre in the future. This is a brilliantly imaginative concept and I feel encouraged to see theatre practitioners trying out new ways of telling stories by exploring the full range of our sensory experience.
Conceived by: Glen Neath and David Rosenberg
Writer: Glen Neath
Director: David Rosenberg
Producer: Fuel Theatre
Sound Design: Ben and Max Ringham
Booking Until: 21 March 2015
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/34893/see_whats_on/whats_on/shows/fiction