Trooping down to a shipping container for a séance has got to be up there with the weirdest-ways-to-spend-your-Friday-night. I was waiting for a mate to turn up - a pretty no-nonsense lad that probably watches The Omen, carelessly chuckling, whilst drinking Baileys. This was when I started to get pretty anxious about the fifteen minutes of fear in a metal box - that now appeared to be growling. (When it comes to Horror, I’m more at the shaking, pissing Chihuahua end of the spectrum.) The shipping container started looking a bit like a chubby version of the menacing black cuboid from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I made a mental note to bite my mate’s ear off if he bailed. Who’d laugh at me if I pissed myself? However, I didn’t piss myself or die from fright or anything as melodramatic as I am, but instead found myself tentatively delighted in the fright.
If you’re claustrophobic, this is probably not the best show for you. The audience is closely seated round a long table, amongst fellow concerned-looking comrades. Headphones are popped on, the lights go out, and you’ll be plunged into complete darkness in essentially an oversized locker. But don’t worry, you’re given a chance to make a dash for it. The theatre guide will give you a speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace moment, after a polite and alarming notice, that after the doors shut no one will be allowed out. Which is polite and alarming. But if you’re not fainthearted, stay squirming in your seat please. Séance is a chilling and mischievous immersive experience that draws you in deep.
The collaboration between Glen Neath and David Rosenberg provides a prickling brilliance of sensory manipulation, like puppet masters. They tantalisingly dangle audio tricks in front of your ears, such as foot prints you could swear were walking from left to right round your head. This gives your rationality a real rattling. In the pitch black, a new world in conjured, and you’re persuaded by the ring-leader-like medium with eerie authority that “You believe in the table, yet you can’t see it. You can’t see me, yet I want you to believe in me.” Séance has picked up on the subtlest details of sound and touch that unknowingly make life feel real, and then exploited the hell out of these tricks.
This experience successfully deceives your fingertips and ears into believing in a new realm where spirits are conjured by faceless tricksters in front of a disturbed faceless audience. Séance blurs the lines of the real and the sensory, cunningly using nothing more than a pair of headphones to give an empty dark space a pulse. However, I was also promised by a menacing whisper that’d “I’d never be lonely again.” Which begs the question why I’m still dining on single serving microwavable lasagne and a bottle of Lambrini with a straw. - Jess Butcher