Sunday, July 14

Eulogy – National Theatre Courtyard

Before I even arrived at the courtyard outside the National Theatre, I could see the large white container with EULOGY written in black letters along the side. In the ten minutes I was waiting for the performance to begin, two people came up to me and asked me what it was. It’s unusual for something to stick out on the Southbank – there are street performers and installations most weeks – but there’s something mysterious about the Eulogy set up that immediately captures your interest.

Performance isn’t quite the right word; Eulogy is billed as an in-person, immersive experience and I can’t think of another way to sum it up. We take our seats in our “suite” don a pair of headphones and are plunged into such extreme darkness that at times I wasn’t sure if my eyes were open or closed. I’ve written reviews before about use of binaural sound in theatre and this takes the experience to a whole new level. The characters that engage with you feel so present that I had to refrain from reaching out and touching them, and at times the proximity of someone that my logical brain knew wasn’t real felt genuinely unsettling. The simulated movement adds another dimension to the experience, it is subtle yet effective and furthers the sensation of being in transit and disoriented.

Just as people came to ask me what was going on before the performance, a very sweet young woman who had been in the audience with me approached me afterwards to ask me what I thought. We both mused that the storyline was confusing and didn’t make a great deal of sense, and it was hard to articulate immediately afterwards exactly what we’d both experienced. The concept borrows from Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception but without any of the scene-setting narrative it’s difficult to establish a clear story thread. You know that you’re uncomfortable, but you’re not really sure why. That said, maybe that doesn’t matter because what Darkfield have achieved here is a unique and immersive experience that feels completely personal in a setting where you’d never expect it.

If you’re looking for a nice evening at the theatre, this is definitely not for you. Ditto if you’re scared of the dark or prone to claustrophobia. However, if you’re looking for something totally different that engages your senses and stretches your perception of a ‘performance’ then this could very much be for you. It’s also something that can be enjoyed independently – as indeed all theatre can be, but the set up lends itself to the solo viewer – so there’s no need to worry about selling the idea to a more traditional companion!

Eulogy is running on the Southbank until 17th October before moving to Nottingham Lakeside from 20th – 31st October. I’ve already scoped out Darkfield’s other work, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes – or ears – out for whatever they’ve got coming next.

Reviewer: Zoё Meeres

Reviewed: 7th October 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★