Members of the audience wear headphones and listen to audio that creates a sense of space and movement

Even in terms of experimental theater, watching a play in total darkness might seem like an off-the-wall idea—but it’s just what Glen Neath and David Rosenberg envisioned for their theater company, Darkfield. The plays developed by Darkfield take place in completely pitch-black rooms where each audience member wears headphones, through which they hear the play.

Neath and Rosenberg began using a technique called binaural sound to produce the audio heard by their audiences. With this technology, which requires the use of headphones, audio is recorded using imitation ear canals placed on the left and right sides of head-shaped busts, creating a realistic sense of space and movement.

The duo’s first play, Ring, was performed in 2012. Entering audience members were asked to move their chairs into a circle in the pitch-black room. Through their headphones, they heard the sounds of scraping on the floor and likely assumed their fellow audience members were somehow following instructions in the darkness. But then, a whisper through the headphones would instruct them to stay where they were.

“You hear a footstep and think, ‘Is everyone sitting down in their chairs? Have people got up?'” Rosenberg, who directs the plays, told Wired UK.

Another play, Fiction, followed in 2015. The unique structure of Darkfield’s plays combined with the direct address to each audience member through his or her headphones allows for a much more intimate theater experience, according to Rosenberg and Neath.

“It’s a very intense feeling,” said Neath, who writes the plays. Darkfield’s latest project Séance is showing this month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Darkfield

Even in terms of experimental theater, watching a play in total darkness might seem like an off-the-wall idea—but it’s just what Glen Neath and David Rosenberg envisioned for their theater company, Darkfield. The plays developed by Darkfield take place in completely pitch-black rooms where each audience member wears headphones, through which they hear the play.

Neath and Rosenberg began using a technique called binaural sound to produce the audio heard by their audiences. With this technology, which requires the use of headphones, audio is recorded using imitation ear canals placed on the left and right sides of head-shaped busts, creating a realistic sense of space and movement.