Review: Seance (Summerhall)
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
What’s that? No production photo? No, you must be mistaken, my dear. That’s it. That’s what “Séance” looks like. That’s what it looks like for its entire 15 minute run time. This “project” is the brainchild of Glen Neath and David Rosenberg and involves the audience first being asked if they are claustrophobic, taking their seat inside a metal shipping container, and turning off the lights. I was excited to hear of this show, which has most likely had the largest number of performances at the fringe running every twenty minutes throughout most of the day for the entire run, as it sounds like a genuinely novel idea that could give me shivers, which few theatre shows do.
My immediate fear was that I was going to be hit by an unwelcome barrage of jump scares. Mercifully, there were none to be found (though the temptation to suddenly grab the arm of the person sitting next to me was ever present). Instead, we are asked to put on a pair of headphones and place our hands on the table in front of us and let our senses take over. Now, though I knew I had put on headphones, and though I knew that I had my hands on a table wired to feel pressure in certain areas, there were many moments where I questioned whether there really was someone or something in the room. Granted, some of the sillier lines don’t help, such as “don’t take your hands off the table, or spirit will be free”, but there’s no doubt that the audio quality and physical effects of the table are astoundingly realistic.
Whether it is a good experience for you depends entirely on how easily you will believe your senses despite your knowledge. Personally, I never felt totally engulfed in the experience. I attribute this mainly to the fact that I had a great sense of special awareness before I had even put the headphones on. I was sitting down, which allowed an unexpected feeling of comfort and safety, and I knew that I had my back to the wall, so something could approach me from behind. Because of this, and the cramped nature of the space, I could never quite believe that something could be approaching me out of the darkness. However, the experience was very creepy and effective, and the idea itself is wonderful and can only lead to more shows that can improve on it and make the most of it. For some it will work, for others it won’t, but I saw “Séance” as a wonderful indicator of similar projects to come. Three stars.