Fringe review: Coma

The line between dreams and reality is blurred, with often frightening results, in the spine-tingling immersive experience Coma. ★★★★★

Feb 22, 2020, updated Feb 22, 2020

Presented by Melbourne-based Realscape Productions in association with UK production company Darkfield, Coma is the third instalment in an impressive immersive theatre series that plays on audiences’ fears while stripping them of their senses.

Held in a shipping container in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, it invites audiences to lay down, relax and enter a collective dream world which is disorientating, unnerving and, at times, just plain scary.

The performance takes place in complete darkness and – like Darkfield’s other experiences Séance and FlightComa uses binaural technology to create a unique 3D listening experience.

There is something very unsettling about lying in a pitch-black room with strangers. With no visual awareness of your surroundings, you begin to feel vulnerable, even though you know deep down that you are safe within the walls of the container.

As the show continues, the sounds intensify and without the benefit of sight your imagination takes over – aided by the voice of an unseen man who serves as the audience’s narrator and guide. Coma features several dark themes which may be disturbing to some people, as may the tone of the narration.

Like Séance and Flight (also back in the Garden this Fringe), the experience also comes with a warning for those who suffer from claustrophobia. Much of the space in the container is taken up by the sturdy bunk beds lining both walls and it does create a claustrophobic feeling that only intensifies once the lights go out.

The impenetrable darkness presses down on you, threatening to swallow you whole, and it is not unusual for your eyes to play tricks as you attempt to make sense of your surroundings.

While not for the faint-hearted, Coma is an imaginative and well-constructed work that will be appreciated by anyone who relishes an experience that creates intense feelings and is truly unnerving. It takes audiences on a disturbing journey into a world where nothing (and everything) is possible.

Coma is playing in the Garden of Unearthly Delights until March 15. It is not considered suitable for people under 15, or those who are pregnant or have heart conditions.

 See more Fringe and Festival stories and reviews here. 

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