AS part of this year’s Arts by the Sea Festival, Fuel Theatre Company have blacked out a large room in the Pavilion Dance complex and invite the audience to sit in complete darkness for an hour, wearing wireless headphones, and be transported to another “very similar” room.
Director David Rosenberg, a doctor and qualified anaesthetist, has been fascinated with hearing since his teenage years in the late 70s, when he attended a Royal Institution Christmas Lecture about the sense. In this show, with writer Glen Neath, he takes away every other sense, leaving listeners to focus on what is happening around them via the medium of sound alone.
At the beginning one of the company, Michael, cleverly using a crutch, which we can later hear throughout the show, advises us about the darkness and health and safety matters. We are separated from anyone we know, so that we all end up sitting next to strangers. Then, after a brief taster of the darkness, it begins, and very soon we discover that Michael is part of the play, leading the group session until he is locked in a cupboard.
During the opening scene, all the chairs are rearranged into a circle, the ring of the title, or are they?
In actual fact, nothing physical happens at all, because everything we hear is a complex, stereo, binaural, recording, from the moment the darkness descends to the end, when the reassuring strains of Stranger on the Shore bring us back to light. We are identified as protagonist Francis, or Frances, by an intimate whisper directly into the left ear during the moving of chairs, when we are told not to worry, to stay where we are, and this loud, intimate, voice reassures us at key moments during the action when the rest of the group turn on Francis, with dislike, and even an accusation of murder.
Apart from a few cheap sexual references attempting to shock or test the audience, and some horror clichés such as loud heartbeats and sudden noises, the overall effect of Ring is hypnotic, completely immersive, and more theatrical than many visible productions.
Wednesday 2nd October 2013