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The Fringe’s Fear Experiment: Darkfield’s Coma

4 mins read

He emerged from the towering doors of the shipping container. A dozen strangers turned in unison, clutching their tickets to protect them from the unrelenting downpour.

Phones, smartwatches…any source of light must be switched off.’ He said. ‘If it ever gets too much for you, take off your headphones and wait for it to end. Once you go in, you can’t leave.’

The theatre company, Darkfield, provide immersive, anxiety inducing experiences using enclosed environments, total darkness and binural 360 degree sound. Over the years, they’ve made a name for themselves at Edinburgh Fringe Festival for their terrifying and acclaimed productions- Seance and Flight.

One by one, as we entered the container, the busy noise of the city faded out. A voice echoed from the metal walls, commanding us to lay in hospital bunk beds that filled the room. On each bed there was a set of headphones, a tiny red light directly above the pillow.

After a few concerned glances from my fellow participants, we quickly got comfortable knowing that we were in a controlled environment.

‘To your right’, said the voice, ‘you will see a small, white pill in a metal tray. It’s entirely up to you whether or not to take it.

The word ‘Coma‘ was etched into it. I decided, in order to get the full experience, to the take the pill. Even though the rational part of me knew its ‘effects’ would be purely placebo and that it was just a theatrical device, I couldn’t shake my growing anxiety. I’d just taken a random drug in the middle of locked shipping container for an event I’d just read about online. That paranoid voice in the back of my mind began to forget I was still in the middle of the city, all I could feel was the pill slipping down my throat – and then the lights started to fade.

The drug should be starting to take effect. Do not be alarmed’.

This continued until the only thing I could see was the tiny red dot in front me. The participants, the bed, the container, it had all ceased to exist. The voice had grown deeper and louder.

YOU ARE ABOUT TO TAKE PART IN A COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE’

The red dot disappeared. I was plunged into complete darkness. The claustrophobic confines of the room became an endless void where anything could be lurking. What ensued was twenty minutes of unbearable tension and dread…which is exactly what I signed up for.

I won’t spoil what occurs in the darkness. What I will say is that the experience was exhilarating and left me feeling more alive than when I entered. Darkfield have created a unique and groundbreaking form of theatre, one that completely immerses its audience through sensory deprivation. If scary movies aren’t doing it for you anymore, this production company is one to keep an eye one. You can still catch Coma at Summerhall until the 26th of August. If you can’t make it, I have a feeling that these guys will be back with something even more mind-bending next year.

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