Review: “DOUBLE” by DARKFIELD RADIO

Copy of DARKFIELD RADIO_Windows_Credit Alex Purcell
(image credit: Alex Purcell. Image supplied by Realscape Productions)

In the current conditions (especially within Melbourne) where audiences can’t go out to attend shows, innovative producers and companies are increasingly bringing shows to audiences and consumers (and into their homes). One such example is the immersive audio experience “DOUBLE” , the first broadcast on DARKFIELD RADIO – jointly presented by Realscape Productions and DARKFIELD. If the name DARKFIELD rings a bell, you may be familiar with their ‘shipping container’ style productions that have popped up in various cities: SEANCE, FLIGHT and COMA.

Being a bit of a horror / creepy story buff myself I was excited to be able to review “DOUBLE” (with the help of my partner – after all, it’s an audio experience for 2 people). Think you have nerves of steel? Well, read on for a glimpse of what this audio experience is all about.

“DOUBLE” takes place with each person sitting opposite each other at a kitchen table. We both have our mobiles ready, each with our own set of headphones in. We look at each other and nervously smile while the audio track begins to play…..and then we close our eyes. I can best describe this audio experience as being part radio play (echoing “War of the Worlds” but scaled down with a different theme exploring the Capgras delusion) and partly delving into the audience members’ psyche / beliefs / emotions via a killer audio track. Frequently, the lined are blurred between the audio track sounds and the storyline / characters. Ultimately, this meant that my mind eventually did not know if the sounds I was hearing were from happenings in real world suburbia or if they were part of the audio track. At the very least, this would be perturbing but given the theme and sounds, that was dialled up in my head to being extremely unnerving. During the experience, the sounds rattled me and I wished that I was able to swivel my head around to see if anyone was behind me. I had the urge to do this multiple times and that creepy feeling did not leave me, even after the 20 minute audio experience had ended.

Similar to the effects of a horror movie, this experience left my pulse was racing and my hands sweaty and clammy. Powerful stuff, given that what I was ‘seeing’ was via my imagination deriving / taking inspiration from the audio suggestions and sounds. Though I haven’t seen any previous productions (SEANCE / FLIGHT / COMA) I would wager that the fact this experience happens in your own home – a large source of comfort and respite, especially during these times – makes it all the more panic inducing, especially when lines are seemingly blurred between this world and the world experienced via this audio experience. It made me think that reality is an illusion.

It is possible that different listeners gather a slightly different experience from this dark audio adventure, and how immersive it is is up to you. While I was rattled by an ominous, pervasive belief that my partner and I were no longer alone together in our house (a belief that my mind would not shake for the entire 20 minutes), my partner followed the course through to the end (unshaken and with limited outcomes).

A worthwhile experience for both of us – I would not have expected an audio experience to conjure such strong beliefs and feelings and for my body to react as if I was watching a horror movie on a screen – which is testament to its power. Post experience, it also generated a hearty discussion between my partner and I, which we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

VERDICT: “DOUBLE” is a dark audio experience that is unsettling and intriguing. It will have your pulse racing and will leave you questioning you own reality.

Trigger warnings: domestic violence, exploration of the Capgras delusion, paranoia.

*Disclaimer: we attending this audio experience as guests of Realscape Productions.

Tickets and more information: https://www.darkfield.com.au/radio

Check out Darkfield Australia on social media: https://www.facebook.com/DarkfieldAU/

Copy of DARKFIELD RADIO _ Antenna - Credit Alex Purcell
(image credit: Alex Purcell. Image supplied by Realscape Productions)

Review: Interactive Impossibilities

With the current global conditions, many sources of entertainment have taken their offerings online, and magic is no different. On a Saturday night (Sunday morning for those in Australia!) I attended my very first International magic show held on Zoom. This show, called ‘Interactive Impossibilities’, featured three entertainers: illusionist Leon Etienne, magician Jimmy Ichihana and mentalist Bryan Miles. Each entertainer was beaming in from different areas of the world which added extra excitement – Leon was in NY, Jimmy in FL, and Bryan beamed in all the way from South Africa! Most of the performers had appearances on TV shows like “AGT” and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” so I was confident that the audience was in store for an entertaining show.

The magic started as soon as the audience was let into the zoom ‘room’ with a cool countdown effect featuring playing cards. This created some excitement for the show to start. Leon Etienne (with hair that seemed to defy gravity!) opened the show with clever magic featuring items from around the house (tape and paper). I don’t wish to spoil too much of the specifics of each performance, however broadly – Jimmy Ichihana showed some incredible card magic (some of which the audience could follow along with in real time which was fantastic); and Bryan Miles is definitely a master of mind manipulation / mind control – a master mentalist. If you ever thought that mind reading couldn’t be done en masse via zoom then think again! Bryan’s segment was by far the most interactive with audience members, which also made it the most memorable. I felt that Bryan was playing some fun games with the audience at times – at one point, a ‘Pictionary’ type game appeared which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Throughout the show, there were numerous chances for members of the audience to help out and I enjoyed this aspect – I not only felt like I was meeting other magic fans from all around the world but we all had the chance to share in the magic together via zoom reactions / facial reactions and the chat window. The performers all regularly visited the chat window to see reactions and responses from audience members which was nice. Additionally I had the most wonderful chance to help out as a member from the audience, made more incredible by Jimmy Ichihana’s mind blowing card magic. Jimmy’s card effect made me say ‘NO WAY!’ in front of an international audience – it was that hard to believe! Quite a feat in itself that impactful card magic can be done via a screen half a world away – you really do need to see it to believe it!

Overall, ‘Interactive Impossibilities’ was well presented and organised. The usual issues that often plague zoom meetings (like sound issues / bandwidth dropouts / time lags etc) were not present during this show. The entire show appeared to be live (vs shows that combine live and pre-recorded content). There are benefits to each online format (fully live versus a combo of live and pre-recorded) however I felt that being fully live enhanced the ‘exclusive’ nature of the show – and I like that. Attendance was capped to 30 people and this enhanced the exclusive aspect of ‘Interactive Impossibilities’. It was closer to the original experience of watching a show in real time, as opposed to watching pre recorded content (which feels no different to watching a video / streaming service online). Post show, my desk looked like I had been to a magic show – there were cards scattered across my desk and predictions made. Amazing that an experience that closely resembles a magic show in real life can be replicated online.

I’m not sure if this online magic experience will be repeated, but I highly recommend that you keep a look out for ‘Interactive Impossibilities’ and attend if you have the chance. It’s a fun hour of magic that will leave you impressed and intrigued.

The Melbourne Magic Festival 2020 Online Gala Show

Like many other forms of live entertainment planned for 2020, The Melbourne Magic Festival has had to be postponed until 2021. Not at all surprising in these times – I’m extremely lucky to have a stack of happy memories to reflect on from past years – however this time of year doesn’t feel the same without the festival’s charm and enjoyment. It feels like a bleak winter this year.

Not all is lost (especially for fans of magic) as the team behind the Melbourne Magic Festival, led by local magic superstar Tim Ellis, held an online version of their annual Gala Show. The performers donated their time and talents and the online gala raised money for the festival itself (for, even with an event postponement the bills and costs keep rolling in). Hosted by Tim Ellis himself and held on Zoom, ticket holders were asked to dress magically and keep their webcams on to enhance the level of enjoyment and keep magical enthusiasm going. It was great to see a mix of age groups tuning in, from people on their couches / sofas, to young adults with headphones on, to families with children all smiling and waving. There was a lovely spot of LIVE piano music pre show, performed by Andy Pobjoy at Piano Bar Geelong. It was a fun way to start the show, and many audience members could be seen bopping along, clapping or moving their hands in the air to the music. A sweet medley of tunes played on piano (accompanied by singing) had broad appeal for the audience (including some hits from Queen and also some Frank Sinatra favourites). This was a treat as not many have had a chance to travel beyond their own suburb (let alone across then city and then some!). It felt like a mini magical getaway.

The online show itself was a first for me – I mean, sure during the work day I have meetings over Zoom but I’ve never tuned in for entertainment. I was curious to see how the show was going to play out, with mixed segments of live and pre-recorded magic as well as the potential challenges asking for audience volunteers could bring during the show.

I have to admit that the online show was just about as enjoyable as a show in real life! I saw some of my friends in the audience and we exchange greetings in the chat area, which brought much joy to my socially starved soul. The magic (whether live or pre-recorded) still made me laugh, gasp and cheer as usual. Much of it was just as amazing as it would be live (especially the piece by Lawrence Leung which was brilliant!) Many local favourite magicians were in the lineup (including Dom Chambers, Anthony DeMasi and many many others). There were special appearances with greetings from overseas magicians (such as Max Maven, Boris Wild and Shawn Farquhar) – many of whom were past / planned International guests at The Melbourne Magic Festival – which was a nice touch. It made it seem like those International guests missed the festival too, but was also fantastic to see them introduce other performers. The gala included a performance by the divine Lucy Darling which was an indulgent treat as usual. There were far too many show highlights to mention here, however I very much enjoyed seeing some of my favourite performers (whether local or international) – even if the segments were pre-recorded I still smiled and waved as if they could see me in real time.

Another aspect I appreciated about the show was the short and sharp nature of the magic segments, with the performers getting right to the magic. It reminded me of a variety show, where the performers only have a few minutes to impress. I liked that as, going into the show, I was concerned that it would be a long stint online. These days, having a lot more screen time than I usually would means that I do get ‘screen tired’. It was definitely a different medium with which to show magic, however the magic was just as impactful. I enjoyed dressing up in a nice magic themed outfit for the show (as these days, I’m in casual clothes all the time). I miss getting dressed up to go out so that was a nice change of pace for the evening.

Like many other users of Zoom and other online platforms (whether social or business), online mediums aren’t without their perils…..Low user bandwidth can be a devil, especially during a live segment that required audience participation. There was a lot of speech / vision lag during that segment, so I don’t feel like I caught much of that performance. There were also a couple of points where the same pre-recorded segment was played again (and then halted)- however that prompted some comedy from the show host Tim Ellis, which was amusing. I also had a technology lag (my issue) with the platform closing, and I then couldn’t get back into the show as the participant number had reached its max. Frustrating, but I eventually got back into the show and stayed in (thankfully!) Those that regularly use Zoom or other platforms are well versed in the pitfalls of such systems, and no user is really immune to those. None impacted on the enjoyment factor or enthusiasm of the audience members during the show.

The Melbourne Magic Festival Online Magic Gala was a fun show, and a nice virtual outing to a festival I’m missing very much this year. It was nice getting dressed up and virtually chatting to friends I’d normally see during the festival as well as watching some of my favourite magical performers. I can only hope that there will be more virtual magic shows to partake in, especially during these socially distant times when we’re all unsure when live performances will return to Melbourne. Thank you to everyone at The Melbourne Magic Festival for organising this special online event.

For more information / news of future performances:

The Melbourne Magic Festival: https://melbournemagicfestival.com/

Piano Bar Geelong: https://www.pianobar.com.au/geelong

 

Gosh, how the world has changed!

In late February / Early March this year, I spent a weekend soaking in the sights, sounds and awesome shows of the Adelaide Fringe Festival….little did I know that the world at large was set to change a mere 2 weeks later.

I have been ultra quiet on here as (like many others) I’ve had to juggle a slew of different variables – working from home and the challenges that brings, being away from friends and relatives, and having many plans in flux. There is also the sad fact that many forms of live entertainment have been put on hold during this time (yes, I’m still being entertained via Netflix and Disney+ but that’s vastly different to physically attending a live entertainment show). Understandable in these times, however unfortunate for everyone involved all the same. The global conditions have meant that the arts sector needs assistance more than ever (from the government, from patrons / sponsors and from audience members).

The changing face of the world has seen a rise in online ‘virtual’ magic shows, which come with their own challenges. I was recently lucky enough to attend a virtual magic gala (run by the team at the Melbourne Magic Festival) so stay tuned for a review of an online magic show (certainly a first for me!) which was a fun way to stay connected to an art form that I enjoy so much.

In these times, more than ever, it is important to stay connected (yet distancing as appropriate) and to stay well.