Upon lining up to enter my first Fringe show of the season, it occurred to me that I could have probably done more to prepare myself for something as outlandish as Flight. The intensely immersive, multi-sensory journey takes place inside a shipping container, and aims to evoke anxiety within even its pluckiest participants.
Flight is the second instalment of the ongoing DARKFIELD series, an exploration of fear founded by Glen Neath and David Rosenburg. In association with Realscape Productions, Flight uses pitch blackness, binaural (3D) sound, and movement to incorporate individuals into a strange and sinister story. As reiterated by an enthusiastic Fringe worker minutes before it began, Flight is not recommended for those afraid of dark, enclosed spaces.
United in fresh trepidation, my fellow passengers and I boarded the box and obediently took our assigned places. We found ourselves in the economy section of an ordinary airliner, complete with narrow seats, belts and flashing buckle-up signs. Pre-recorded footage of a flight attendant told us to note the exits at each end of the cabin. A man sitting near me actually took the safety manual out from the seat pocket in front of him and observed it, apparently unwilling to take any risks.
Once our headphones were on, Flight plunged us into complete darkness. In lieu of sight, auditory cues conjured clear and visceral images of our invisible surroundings. Like stepping into a dark episode of a bizarre sci-fi series, I was invested in every second of the unfolding narrative. I flinched at the voice over my shoulder and gripped the armrests in anticipation, forgetting almost entirely about the warm summer evening just outside the cabin walls.
Flight periodically eased me into moments of normalcy before abandoning them entirely. Jarring surrealism filled my senses, challenged my expectations and poked fun at my understanding of reality. Even as I attempted to pull myself out of the fantasy, it was easy to question my safety within the shuttle, or to query just how fabricated this flight really was. Although I might have enjoyed more structure to the simulation, I cannot fault its execution. I was engaged from beginning to end.
When Flight finished, my fellow passengers and I shuffled out of the cabin into fading sunlight. It seemed like everyone felt a little sheepish, smiling at the absurdity of our short-lived and unwarranted fear. One person even related to another that, during the show, the stranger next to them had grabbed their arm. Unusual, maybe, but not difficult to understand within the context of unending blackness in an airborne shipping container.
If the idea of being shut inside a box is overwhelmingly distressing, perhaps give this show a miss. If, however, you are as cautiously excited as you are afraid, I encourage you to take the leap. Flight would certainly satisfy someone with a vast imagination and a morbid interest in confronting the uncanny. It is a perfect example of what Fringe can offer beyond your go-to shows and favourite acts – a little slice of something completely out of the ordinary.
Flight is on at the Perth Cultural Centre until February 16th as part of Fringe World Perth.