From the creators of previous PopOut Festival highlights SEANCE and FLIGHT, which thrilled and spooked audiences back in 2018 and 2019 comes a new immersive audio theatre experience – DARKFIELD RADIO.
DARKFIELD RADIO is an app, a brand new, innovative form of entertainment directly responding to the new age we are living in, immersing audiences in strange and curious worlds in their own home and bringing new meaning to the familiar spaces we inhabit.
We went took a look behind the scenes at the creation of this unique event!
Artists David Rosenberg and Glen Neath have been making work together since 2011. In 2016 they formed Darkfield with producer Andrea Salazar and began to create a series of shows in bespoke shipping container environments, using darkness and immersive experiences to explore fear and anxiety.
In 2018 Darkfield brought SÉANCE to PopOut Festival and in 2019 FLIGHT, but for PopOut 2021 the company has something different in store, born out of the restrictions of the pandemic, but remaining true to their unique immersive audio aesthetic – Darkfield Radio. We caught up with Glen Neath to discuss the creation of these innovative new dramas:
Darkfield Radio is a bit of a departure from your previous work, how did it come about? “When the pandemic struck, we had three container shows open in King’s Cross that we had to close early,” says Neath, “Like everyone else we then had to decide how to present work with the new circumstances we were presented with. We were keen not to just provide our existing audio online as the work was made for a very particular environment, so we thought long and hard about the new parameters the pandemic set and we tried to make work with those specific obstacles in mind.”
But, despite the name, Darkfield Radio shows are a million miles away from something you might find on Radio 4. “Yes, indeed,” confirms Neath, “they are definitely not traditional radio plays, nor are they podcasts or streamed content, they are very much pieces of work that should feel like you’re having a show experience, even if it is in your own home.” The home setting must really affect how you approached the show. “Yes, “says Neath, “although all of our work uses binaural sound and darkness to situate each audience member at the centre of the story, unlike with SÉANCE or FLIGHT, we had to accept that the move to an app-based drama meant there were a few things we’d lose control over. By making work outside of containers the very particular sets we’ve created and the darkness we’ve previously relied upon are not there to inform the storytelling, but what we have found is that the at-home shows are actually more unnerving as they start to mess around with spaces you are very familiar with – the moment you put on your headphones your home becomes the setting for another world, blurring the lines between real and imagined.”
Darkfield Radio is split into six episodes across two seasons, but the pieces are not all linked, it’s more of an anthology experience. “That’s right,” says Neath, “Season One and Season Two are not connected but some of the shows are.” In Season One the episodes are technically standalone although Double and Visitors can be bought as a package, but this is more for practical purposes than narrative connections. “But for Season Two we got more ambitious,” explains Neath, “and all three shows in the KNOT trilogy are linked – the idea is that they are playing simultaneously in three locations and certain events coincide across all three. We also expanded the range of locations for Season One to include a car and a bench.” But Glen Neath is quick to point out that these are not arbitrary decisions, rather the form comes out of the story writing process and a consideration for the audience experience: “We never start a show with a story in mind,” says Neath, “we don’t write plays and then try to think of the best way to stage them, this isn’t something we are really interested in. Every part of our process takes into consideration its effect on the audience member. We often start a show with a piece of text or a philosophical idea. Double became an exploration of Capgras Syndrome, and an inspiration for the KNOT trilogy was Nick Chater’s book, The Mind is Flat – although we did move away from it as we progressed the project. The KNOT trilogy deals with the idea that we are improvising events in response to the stimuli offered to us and we have tried to create for the listener the idea that they are as lost in the world as the people they meet there. There are many overlapping moments across the three shows that we hope audiences will find satisfying as and when they come across them.
Overall, however, the feedback has generally been really good. Season One was the winner of the Columbia Digital Dozen Breakthrough Award 2021, for the most innovative new way to tell stories, and both seasons have been presented across several festivals from the Venice International Film Festival, TriBeCa New York and Edinburgh Festival.”
You can get a small teaser of the type of experience below in the trailer for Darkfield Radio.