Ever considered sitting in a shipping container, plunging into pitch darkness, and being terrified for 15 minutes with the aid of modern technology? At first I was blasé about the prospect, yet I felt a distinct nervous energy building while waiting to step inside. And it's that irrational fear which this production so skilfully preys on; of course nothing bad is going to happen, of course it's all pretend, yet the experience created is so intense, immediate and startling that it's really quite overwhelming.
I'm not going to explain the specifics of what goes on in the dark metal box, as too much information would undoubtedly spoil it. But I will say that we are presented with a very simple idea, brought to life by complex sonic and stereo sound effects. On a sensory, physiological level, I found myself suspending disbelief and becoming utterly involved – even as my brain continued to remind me that nothing I was hearing was real. It's quite an internal battle, which only serves to heighten the intended sense of discomfort.
We live in a highly visual, image-based culture, so the removal of this major sense might seem a big sacrifice for an immersive piece. Yet it makes it all the more involving. Seldom in life do we find ourselves in fully pitch darkness, and if we do, it's at some kind of theatrical event such as this (where great care has to be taken to eradicate any possible light leakage). So the environment is in itself unnerving and unsettling, throwing us off-kilter from the outset.
If you go and see Séance, do be aware that it's highly unsuitable for those with fear of the dark or claustrophobia. The shipping container's layout seats 20, and once you're in, you're in for the full 15 minutes – there are no illuminated exit signs here. It's also not recommended for anyone under 14 years of age.
But if you're drawn to scary, freaky, unnerving stuff, this is an absolute top pick for you. It's not the kind of scary that'll keep you up at night, or make you never want to put the lights out again; rather, it's an audio-tactile adventure, the type of experience that metaphorically turns your knuckles white. It's a bit like the fear felt on a rollercoaster, only dark, creepy and disturbing. Creators Glen Neath and David Rosenberg have certainly achieved something unusual and theatrically exciting – and they'll no doubt succeed in scaring festival-goers at Summerhall right through this Fringe.