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Fiction

A scene from Fiction at Battersea Arts Centre. Photo: Alex Brenner

The darkness is total. A blanketing black. We are sitting in comfortable chairs, wearing headphones, listening to voices whisper in our ears. David Rosenberg’s latest binaural experiment, after the creepy Ring, which was also performed in blackness, sets out to explore the borders between sleep and wakefulness, the fleetingness of dreams. Before the lights go out we see a screen, a few images of a cheap hotel room, a glimpse of woodland. Then everything goes black. A French-accented voice promises to be our guide, to stay with us. The piece is disorientating and incredibly, intentionally slippery. It’s forever shifting locations; without visual cues it’s left to the sound of an engine or the chirp of a bird to tell us where we are. It’s hard to keep track and the effect is unsettling. You become very aware of your body, your outline, the one thing you can trust.

The sound design by Max and Ben Ringham is brilliantly intricate, surrounding us with noise, both in the room and in our ears. Sometimes this experience is soothing, but just as often it’s jarring, a sensory assault, a wave of noise. The narrative, designed as it is to stay just out of reach, is frustrating in places and the production lasts longer than it needs to, but its unreliability serves a purpose. The whole thing is underscored by the threat of collapse, a sense that the whole thing could unravel, that the world they’ve constructed could easily unpeel like a dream.

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Verdict
A fascinating aural experiment performed in total darkness
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