The fear of flying is a relatively common phobia, despite the overwhelming evidence that you are much more likely to be killed in an everyday activity. Flight plays with this modern fear, inviting the audience to take a journey and experience their version of Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment with a show that takes place almost entirely in the dark.
You enter the venue (a shipping container outside Summerhall) and leave the bright daylight behind, stepping into the interior of a plane complete with oval windows, padded airline seats and aircraft safety cards. The ticket you’re handed on arrival gives your seat number. Once you’re seated and your baggage has been stored safely in the overhead lockers, you are instructed to place your headphones on and consult the safety card.
When the lights are dimmed and the cabin plunges into darkness, your fellow travellers disappear and you are left alone. There is no other audience in this show; it is a personal experience. This creates an odd sensation of vulnerability as the comfort of a traditional theatrical experience is stripped away.
The action in the performance comes from the soundscape played through your headphones and the occasional movements from the container itself. As the plane takes off, the floor beneath you rumbles and shakes, with the pitch of the plane’s engine changing convincingly through the headphones. There isn’t much in the way of plot in the performance, yet there are hints in the dialogue that bubbles around you: an unaccounted for passenger, a dead body on the plane. These morsels gain life in the darkness, leading to thoughts of terrorists or aviation disasters. Is there a smell of burning? With the sensory deprivation, your senses and imagination are heightened and it’s easy to wonder if your mind is playing tricks on you. The show needles at these fears, leading each audience member on a psychological journey through the fear of flying and, ultimately, of death.
The soundscape for this performance really is outstanding, creating a sense of movement and filling the space with characters. Sounds come subtly from across the cabin or are whispered right next to your ear. At times it’s hard to believe there aren’t actors creating the sounds in real time.
Once the journey has started, there is only one moment of escape from the darkness as light flashes through the plane windows, illuminating the cabin for a few brief moments. A previously hidden mirror is revealed in the light and reflects the rows of seats. For a flash, we see the interior of a full plane complete with aisle. For a flash, we also see ourselves. Two realities in the same box, just as Schrödinger theorised.
Flight is an original, clever show. The soundscape and the sensory deprivation create an all-consuming experience that takes you away from the busy streets of Edinburgh and into a different reality.
When you exit the box, the next show’s participants stand nervously outside, looking carefully at your face for signs of what may have happened inside. They are the observers to this interpretation of Schrödinger’s cat. Every 30 minutes, the cycle is repeated and the box is closed again. If you’re unafraid of the dark and looking for an innovative Fringe experience, then it might be time to collect your boarding pass and embark on a flight of your own.