Eulogy: This is not your ordinary hotel

08 11 2022

Eulogy Lobby Postcard
Eulogy: This is not your ordinary hotel  
by Inesa Vėlavičiūtė

In Eulogy by DARKFIELD, the audience members are cordially invited to join an intense, dark but entertaining adventure, exploring imagination and the human brain’s remarkable power to travel through time and space. From a company known for utilising customised, site-specific interior sets, the immersive experience creators combine theatre, state-of-the-art technology and neuroscience to produce a spellbinding performance in a pitch-black shipping container. As soon as the lights go out, a space of limitless possibilities opens, sparking the peculiar, uncanny mind’s imagery and leaving it for the audience to explore. 

Conjured entirely by sounds and speech recognition software, a surreal story unfolds, taking audience members deep down their rational brains to a bizarre, dreamlike hotel and situating each at the centre of an evolving narrative. It has a conventional hull of a thriller – a mysterious task of delivering a speech, an enigmatic assistant, plenty of clues, constant suspense and a hint of danger; and characteristics of lucid dreaming – while asleep, being aware that the images flashing through one’s head are not really happening, albeit vivid and realistic. Blurring the line between the conscious and the dreaming mind, the performance manipulates the sense of time. Although sitting inside a metal cage throughout, the audience is also on the move, the present does not feel static. 

The multi-layered, 360-degree binaural sounds and vibrations entice the mind with possible visual interpretations of the aural and sensory content: hearing voices and footsteps of some characters milling in the hotel lobby, feeling the rattling of the elevator, listening to the eerie silence and then glass breaking while “standing” abandoned in utter nothingness. A parallel can be drawn between these illusions and an art form of puppetry. The brain here represents a puppet master, manipulating the invisible strings of brain nerves, causing images to appear in the absence of light. 

The subconscious mind also controls the complicated organic machine of a human body and the audience’s emotional experiences while navigating the rooms and floors of this hallucinatory hotel. The participants’ control over their actions is misled and as the sinister side of the story begins to reveal itself, it provokes a physical effect: the pulse is quickening and the heart racing when descending into the bowels of the hotel, holding one’s breath while gingerly stepping out of the elevator and sensing an intense foreboding of what might happen out there. The state of mental uncertainty triggers the body into fear response and although the audience is well aware their surroundings are merely fictions of the mind, the brain responds to both real and imagined events in the same way.

Gripping from the start, Eulogy is a fully immersive, collective and yet hauntingly intimate and introspective experience as every audience member enters the unique metaphysical realities of their own mind. Confusion piles on confusion in the string of events, and the saturation point is reached with each unsuspecting soul, who happened upon this fateful venue, becoming a has-been, the very subject of the eulogy.