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Frank Sidebottom The Home of the Retrospective


Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well! Live stage shows in Central Scotland, be they Shakespeare or avant-garde.

Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Flight @ Summerhall

This piece of experimental theatre (created by Darkfield) takes place largely in complete darkness in a mocked-up aircraft passenger cabin. When the lights are down, the only sensory stimuli comes from a pair of headphones playing a binaural soundtrack which simulates the experience of being a passenger on an eventful and frankly unsettling flight.

This show lasts 30 minutes and takes place every half an hour, between 13:00 and 21:30 each day. When queueing for the show which I attended, I saw a number of people leave the previous time slot looking somewhat disorientated, disconcerted or unsettled. One young lady was heard to remark “I don’t think I’ll ever fly again.” Before the show, the audience is prepared for the pitch darkness before the action starts, so that they can take the opportunity to leave if it isn’t their thing. Having nerves of steel (and, of course, being obligated to review the thing) I remained seated, with seatbelt suitably fastened and tray stowed upright.

It’s certainly a chilling ride, arguably not 100% true to life (the amount of legroom seems inordinately generous compared with most passenger aircraft nowadays!), but authentic enough to mix effectively with the more bizarre occurrences and lend the experience a vividly nightmarish atmosphere. Things seem off-kilter from early on when a video screen displays instructions from an air hostess. However, there are a number of jumps and jolts in the video to give us the suggestion that all is not well with this aircraft from a technical standpoint. When the lights go down, we experience the world through the three-dimensional sounds coming from the headphones. Babies cry. Ringtones are heard from the phones of other passengers. The roar of the plane engine gets louder and louder during takeoff. Hostesses wheel trollies up and down the aisle. That’s just the beginning.

Flight plays very effectively on the whole Schrödinger's cat theory. The cat inside the box is simultaneously alive and dead because we can’t definitively tell what state it is in until we open it up. Likewise, when we are on the plane we are simultaneously alive and dead because we don’t know what will happen to us until (or unless) we reach our destination. As such, the journey becomes a sort of paradox, where in some universes we survive and in others, we don’t, depending on what transpires between takeoff and landing.

The result is a kind of philosophical rollercoaster ride which also challenges the participant psychologically. The mixture of visual deprivation and aural overload effectively tricks your senses into anticipating a truly life-threatening situation. In reality, however, this is just a simulation; you are in absolutely no real danger whatsoever and the fear is purely in your mind.

It’s a truly singular and provocative piece of art; one you may well walk out of shaken but will ultimately feel enriched by the experience. If you feel up to it, it’s one of the best ways around to kill half an hour.

Watch a video:

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Tickets are available from the following link:

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 logo

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