Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug 2015 @ 12:00

Fiction is a work of hyper-real aural cinema that takes place in complete darkness. In fact, it takes place in the sort of darkness it is rare to experience, where not even the smallest glimmer of light is visible, and where it makes no difference whether the eyes are open or closed. The sort of darkness that is initially very claustrophobic and disturbing and allows the imagination to roam wild.

On entering the theatre, the audience are handed wireless headphones and shown to their designated seat, musak playing gently through their headphones and “pre-flight” information projected onto a screen in front of us. We are in an arcade game waiting for someone to put some money in the slot, and when they do, the darkness descends.

The audience are told to shout help if they want to leave in an emergency, and a few do at the beginning, torches punctuating the darkness like spotlights, but perhaps this has all been engineered too: part drama and part reassurance that a preemptive exit is indeed possible.

The binaural experience is uncannily realistic to start with, and it is hard to believe that there isn’t someone really whispering in your ear behind you. The quiet sounds are the most realistic, the loudest are a bit compressed, unsatisfying and break the illusion. Now and again, the characters give audio descriptions to help orientate us within their virtual world. These almost sound as if they are from a computer game too, of the ‘you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike‘ variety.

The technical expertise behind the performance is certainly very high, and everything is very slick and very well done. Occasionally, however, it feels as if some of the binaural effects are used simply because they are available, rather than because they genuinely enhance the aural drama.

Yet, perhaps the experience is the most important thing here: there is certainly more than a whiff of the funfair about the whole affair. Indeed, the sci-fiesque story that unfolds within our imagination over the hour, doesn’t really have much too it, and this is the main weak point of the show. However, in terms of its thrills and spills, Fiction is certainly an enjoyable ride: a cinema of attractions for the ear.