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Summer Hall, Edinburgh

Seance is, predictably, a theatrical experience inviting the audience to communicate with the dead. Set in a shipping container, it’s performed in total darkness with the audience wearing headphones. The soundtrack – recorded using a binaural microphone – sounds like it’s in 3D: with footsteps and creaking floorboards circling around us in a suitably freaky fashion.

It’s a strong premise – and, from a technical point of view, well executed. The effect of the pitch black darkness and the surround sound combined does a lot to set off the imagination – it’s unnervingly vivid when the seance leader whispers up close into your face; or when a dead soul appears to enter your body and then swim around inside your brain.

Yet whilst Seance has some powerful moments – it fails to culminate into a full-blown experience. There seem to be two obvious explanations for this…

The first is that the voice acting is a bit cringe. It all sounds too much like a radio 4 Saturday afternoon play: over-performed, with those ostentatious grabs at naturalistic speech effects that characterise and make-irritating most radio plays.

The second is the flimsiness of the world-building. Quite a lot of time is spent in an attempt to create some kind of context – but it never really strays from the obvious. You’re left wanting either a full-on sensorial experience with less time spent of building a narrative framework, or narrative that does more to utilise and build on the atmosphere that’s been so effectively created…

The show blurb claims that Seance “explores the psychology of a group of people who have been bombarded with suggestible material”. Which it does do in a few uncomfortable moments. But Seance is never more obviously a fiction than at these times – and the discomfort never really leads anywhere: it’s quickly displaced by a reversion to something more recognisable.

Cool concept, in short. And loads of potential to be brilliant. But suffers from not quite living up to what moments in the show suggest it’s capable of being.

  • Immersive Theatre
  • By Glen Neath and David Rosenberg
  • Summer Hall, Edinburgh

  • Until 27th August 2017
  • Review by Luke Davies
  • 14 August 2017

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