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Review: Seance at the Garden of Unearthly Delights

By Carly Fisher

Séance returns to the Garden of Unearthly Delights at the Adelaide Fringe Festival after impressing audiences in 2018 at the festival with its original and particularly spooky performance. Set in a shipping container in pitch black darkness, audiences take a seat and are instructed to put on headphones – it is through these headphones that the performance exists as it is a completely audio-based performance.

Friends who had been before warned me of how frightening the experience can be. All audience members are asked to put their hands on a long table that lies in the centre of the two rows of audience chairs and told not to remove their hands from the table. We are participating in a séance and are welcoming the spirits – anyone who removes their hands from the table will allow room for the spirits to go astray.

Much of the 20 minute performance seems to be establishing who the spirits are – the ‘host’ asks ‘the audience’ (these are all pre-recorded and make up the audio performance) who they have lost and who may be trying to come back to speak with them. Clever movement of the table allows for the action to all be simulated and to feel very real throughout.

Although I completely anticipated being terrified by Séance, that was not the case. Perhaps the work is a little spooky but it is certainly manageable. Unfortunately, although I was thrilled not to be scared silly, the work was just, on a whole, underwhelming. The creativity is there but the story isn’t.

Ultimately, the experience is very quick and after all the establishment, little time is left for the real action. The technology behind both this experience and their sister performance, Flight, positioned right opposite Séance at the garden, is very clever and certainly is at the forefront of the audio-performance trend, particularly in that it is an audio experience that calls on the sensory deprivation of all other senses. Past audio experiences that I have witnessed have often been complimentary to a site-specific work or a visual exploration. I liked the uniqueness of Flight and Séance and felt that with further development of the storylines, these experiences could evolve into complete theatrical works, rather than the quick festival experience it currently is. I hope that the companies behind these works – Realscape Productions and Darkfield – consider this future evolution of the works.

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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