The best word to describe the ‘COMA’ immersive experience at Fringe is Unsettling.
Encouraged into a shipping container full of claustrophobia inducing bunk beds, the world outside seems to slip away. As we lay on our sterile plastic mattresses the container begins to dim until it is illuminated by only bright red lights slowly fading as a voice guides you into a collective dream through DARKFIELD‘s signature 360-degree audio.
Much like a dream, the voice tells an incohesive story, pacing up and down the room as the doctor bustles about beside the other patients. Describing the room, the smells, the placebo pill, and your state of mind as you fall deeper into the pitch black darkness.
The audio technology is absolutely brilliant, 360 degree layered sounds adding to the experience and creating what I felt to be the only ‘horror’ element in this show- people whispering in your ear, coming up beside you as you lay, motionless and blind, tension and anticipation rising by the moment. The harshness of the noise that followed lost the magic for me, having to remove a headphone due to the deafening crashes, taking me out of the experience. Jump scares and gratuitous noise for shock value is a trope that should be retired, both in film and audio experiences.
My biggest issue with this show was the theme. As a huge horror fan I expected to be happily terrified, hoping it would leave me afraid to close my eyes. The concept of being trapped within your own mind, hearing, seeing, but not being able to move a muscle is a terrifying concept, and this show just missed the mark for me in terms of that horror element. I left the show unsettled, but it felt more of a guided meditation through the soft-spoken voice of our narrator than an immersive horror experience.
As a fast, reasonably priced and well located in the Woodside Pleasure Garden, COMA is an interesting and new experience, and I would undoubtedly like to explore DARKFIELD’s other offerings.
COMA tickets can be purchased here.