Theatre review: Coma Summerhall – The Terrace, Edinburgh

Do NOT take the pill in front of you.

Coma, Summerhall The Terrace (Venue 26)

Coma, Summerhall – The Terrace * * * *

It has no medical or therapeutic value but it may have side-effects. You do not actually have to swallow anything before undertaking Darkfield’s latest exercise in 360 binaural sound, housed within its trademark shipping container. After previous productions, Seance and Flight, you may think you know what to expect, but this is a rather more cerebral and perhaps more disturbing experiment in fear.

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The container has now been convincingly repurposed as a ward in a clinic with three-storey bunk beds on either side. You lie down on mattresses that have been wiped down with surgical spirit. There is a coffee machine. There is a vent on the side of the wall. You should take every opportunity to take in as many details of your surroundings as possible because you will soon be plunged into darkness as you put your headphones and the next voice you will hear is…well, who exactly?

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The sterile off-white clinical surroundings are reminiscent of early David Cronenberg – in fact Cronenberg’s two earliest movies, Stereo and Crimes of the Future could provide acceptable alternative titles for this.

The voice you hear, the voice that guides you could be a doctor – but it’s more likely to belong to one of those vaguely disreputable Cronenbergian scientists played by Oliver Reed or Patrick McGoohan – men who would gladly take an experimental drug themselves, all in the name of science.

A popular explanation of the enduring popularity of horror is that it provides “a rehearsal for death”. That’s just what Coma is, so it’s not going to be for everyone.

RORY FORD

Until 25 August