Crikey. Reviewing David Rosenberg and Glen Neath’s ‘Fiction’ is a bit like reviewing an acid trip: it’s an intense and intensely surreal experience that almost seems so out of its creators’ control that it’s hard to know what to ascribe to them and what to your own subconscious.
What they do very, very well is turn out the lights. ‘Fiction’ is a sort of follow-up to 2013’s ‘Ring’, with both shows being headphones-based pieces which play out in total darkness, with the the ‘play’ a pre-recorded Neath-penned script that plays out in your ears via Ben and Max Ringham’s sophisticated sound design. By the end of ‘Ring’, I thought I could dimly make out a few shapes in the room. Here, all the light bleed is gone: I felt atomised by the darkness, unable to see anything, at all, apart from a vague patina of blue light that I started hallucinating later on. It is an awesome and strange experience to be stranded in the dark – clearly there are lot of situations where it would be unpleasant, but one hour in a comfortable seat and the knowledge that you’ll be in the pub soon leaves it as quite the trip.
I’m really not so sure about the narrative, though. Before the darkness descends, we’re given a few pointers by way of an automated presentation on a big screen at the front of the room. It is suggested that ‘Fiction’ is set in a hotel; we are told half of the people in this room are audience, half chaperones.
Then the darkness descends and, er, it’s all a bit much. We’re apparently zipping around the hotel in the presence of our French chaperone; we break an ornament and try to go to the ornament room; a man gets stabbed in the throat with a pen; we go on a road trip; we are told we’re going to have to make a speech; an American man menaces us. Where ‘Ring’ was relatively easy to follow, ‘Fiction’ is so puckishly mad that its storyline just withers under the crushing weight of the darkness. It’s hard to devote the energy to working what’s going in your ears when the nothing in front of your eyes is so much more fascinating.