Theatre review: Coma and Eulogy

Two aural theatre experiences that will give you the chills.

Imagine being deprived of your sight in a small, cold enclosure with similarly confused strangers and trying to grasp what exactly is going on as your mind floats between what’s real and what’s suggested. This is the world of Darkfield, a highly sophisticated aural sensory experience that has just added two new iterations, Coma and Eulogy, to its suite of eerie soundscapes to mark its Victorian premiere.

For those unaware of how the shows work, the premise is simple enough. Each session (of roughly half an hour duration) takes place in a specially fitted out shipping container and would-be participants are cautioned by Darkfield staff to avoid stepping into this realm if there is a problem with claustrophobic spaces. For once you enter and place on your headphones, you are immersed in complete darkness, with only the voice(s) in your ear in control of your senses.

The effect is nothing short of discombobulating and even frightening. For Coma we were directed to lie flat on our backs in bunk beds and directed (if we wanted) to take a pill that’s carefully placed nearby. This hospital-like setting is commandeered by a man with a stentorian, hypnotic voice. The buzz of a petulant bee, random murmurs and the smell of brewed coffee are interspersed with his voice, which can sound unnervingly near, as though he were standing by your shoulder about to do you some unspecified act of harm.

In Eulogy you have to sit in a small cage that’s opened at the front and subsequently jolts with the sensation of moving up and down in a rickety lift. Here you have a chaperone who is supposed to help you. But why are you here? And what exactly are their responsibilities? The story that’s ostensibly set in a hotel of many levels is as disturbing as the one in Coma. Being disembodied in the dark and submerged in 360 degree sounds, with no other guides except the whispers, bangs, commands and questions in your ear has the dual effect of making you feel both vulnerable and exhilarated.

Read: Musical review: Mary Poppins

Darkfield’s Coma and Eulogy are for those who want to feel a frisson of horror, who want to silently scream when something untoward creaks in the night and who want to submit to the thrall of suggestive storytelling.

And for those who missed out on earlier shows: Flight and Séance are also available at the site that’s right in the middle of Melbourne’s Chinatown. In line with COVID health measures, all containers are cleaned before each session.

Note: All shows suitable for ages 13+ though 13 to 15-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult.

Coma and Eulogy by Darkfield
138 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Tickets: $20-$30

All four productions are showing until 31 August 2022.

Thuy On is Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was published by University of Western Australia Press (UWAP). Her next collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Twitter: @thuy_on