With the world in a seemingly endless lockdown, artists the world over have been forced to come up with creative new ways to put their stories out there. Digital content has rapidly and by necessity become the dominant outlet, with creators trying to make something unique that will stand out amongst all the internet noise.
Darkfield is an immersive theatre company that has been experimenting with technology to produce innovative shows since 2016. This year, they have released Darkfield Radio, a downloadable app through which the group broadcast immersive audio experiences to listen to from the comfort of your own home. The majority of the pieces released have been direct responses to the UK news cycle, tailoring not only the format of their work but also the writing to the circumstances of a society in lockdown.
Visitors was released in October when the UK government announced the 10pm curfew for pubs. An audio experience designed for two people, Visitors required two participants to sit apart with separate headphones, each hearing a slightly different version of the same story.
In Visitors, the audience exists as characters within the story, surrounded by ghosts who drift into their world, whispering about how much they miss reality and how much things have changed since they can no longer be a part of it. It is an exploration of how it feels to long for connection, which is particularly poignant in a time when even those of us who are lucky enough not to have lost any loved ones are still kept separated from them.
Visitors is a short but very well crafted experience, simple yet spooky. The ghosts aren’t there to haunt you, but their gentle musings are evocative of the difficulties of existence in general right now. The show provides no context for the afterlife. The mechanics of coming back as a ghost are left up to your imagination, and you simply have to trust the evidence of your ears that they are there in your home.
The focus is on the internal conflict caused by feeling so close and yet so far away from everything that has ever felt normal. Through a simple conversation that you glimpse, but can’t become a part of, the ghosts feel distant despite whispering right into your ear. They have a very normal conversation, lamenting and coming to terms with their sad lot.
The physical distance between the two people experiencing the piece adds to this. The instructions – spoken in a gentle, robotic tone – cleverly incorporate social distancing measures that allow the audience to stay safe while also reinforcing the emotional impact of the show.
Visitors, overall, is a very powerful piece that seems to know just how to narrow in on the heartache that weighs heavy on the world in 2020. It is broadcast regularly on Darkfield Radio. Check out their website to keep up with Visitors and their other productions.