If you’ve found yourself walking past the Lakeside Arts Centre recently, you may have noticed a new addition to the scenery: a plain white shipping container, dumped unceremoniously outside the building as though in transit. Stay awhile, listen closely, and you may hear a low, steady hum, the whir of engines, assorted mechanical crashes and bangs.
This seemingly unassuming construction is Flight, an immersive horror show from UK company Darkfield that describes itself as a ‘multisensory sonic theme park’. The show, which lasts around 30 minutes and takes place almost entirely in the dark, invites its customers (or passengers) to come face to face with many people’s worst nightmare – a plane crash.
The dedication Darkfield have shown to immersing their clients is impressive
The dedication Darkfield have shown to immersing their clients is impressive. Upon arriving at the attraction, I was greeted by members of staff dressed as flight attendants and even as a pilot. There was a sign directing us to the ticket office as well as a departure lounge and the gate. I was even given my own boarding pass (be warned – these are given out apparently at random, so if you are visiting as part of a group you may well not be seated together). The real fun began, however, when I was invited to board the plane.
I was extremely impressed with the attention to detail in the set design
As I stepped inside, I had to take a moment to process what I was seeing: an exact replica of an airplane cabin, complete with oval windows, overhead lockers, safety cards, drop-down TV screens and blue leather seats arranged in rows of three. I was extremely impressed with the attention to detail in the set design, which really aided in the immersion that is integral to the experience.
The central concept of Flight (and indeed all 3 of Darkfield’s shows) is that it takes place in the complete darkness – and when they say complete, they mean it. After we put on our headphones and observed a glitchy safety demonstration, the lights were dimmed for take-off, and I was plunged into the kind of darkness that it is difficult to imagine (my hand was mere centimetres from my face and I couldn’t even make out a silhouette). This does take some adjusting to, but whilst there is a possibility to exit the show if you find the darkness too disconcerting, I would encourage anyone to stick it out in order to experience what follows.
Unlike anything I’ve ever heard before
Flight occurs almost entirely as a binaural sonic presentation – as one passenger labelled it, “a feast for the ears” – and the sound design is absolutely impeccable, unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Throughout my journey, I heard others passing by me, the clink of a flight attendant’s trolley and the constant rumble of engines, which were so realistic I had to remind myself from time to time that I wasn’t actually airborne. There is the occasional simulated puff of air or jolt of the seat to add to these effects, but for the most part Darkfield’s designers have achieved this imitation entirely with sound.
Flight presents an idea, delivered through a series of astoundingly realistic vignettes
Of course, I wasn’t here for a nice relaxing flight simulation, and it didn’t take long for the journey to start getting weird. Flight purports to “[explore] the many worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”, and indeed there is far more to this show than simply a crash simulation. The plot itself is somewhat thin – in fact it is perhaps too generous to label it a ‘plot’. Rather, Flight presents an idea, delivered through a series of astoundingly realistic vignettes. And whilst there are scares aplenty to get the adrenaline pumping, the best parts of Flight are those that encourage you to start thinking beyond your own reality.
The potency of Flight comes with its realism
Above all, the experience was incredibly intense, and although I wouldn’t describe it as ‘horror’, that is perhaps precisely the point. The potency of Flight comes with its realism, with its ability to get you thinking about the precarity of life, without relying on supernatural scares. I left feeling disorientated, with an overwhelming desire to call my friend just for the simple need to have my existence acknowledged by another person. That, I think, is evidence that Flight achieved exactly what it wanted to do.
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