It’s 9pm. The lights are off. The neighbours’ shouts are coming through the wall. And then there’s a voice in the room with you.
This is the conceit behind Safe…, the latest sound experience from Wiretapper, a company that has used app technology and 3D sound to deliver immersive audio theatre since 2016. Normally their experiences take place in the open air, but the combination of unfamiliar sounds in own’s own home has all the ingredients of an effective horror.
Unfortunately, the 20-minute piece suffers from a surfeit of atmospheric music. A slow, tinkling piano score, occasional crescendos and occasional crashes form the traditional horror music soundtrack, but here it detracts rather than enhances from the soundscape.
It means that the entrance by performer Alexandra Barker (who wrote and also co-directs this piece) isn’t as shocking as it could be. And with a piece as short as this, those precious minutes of not being drawn in to the moment deal a lethal blow.
When the music does fade away, the sound design reverts to what Wiretapper does best – producing soundscapes that meld with the environment around, forcing the listener to question what is real. Near the end of the piece, one can close one’s eyes and wonder what will be present when they reopen, which is the sense of dread that Safe… needs to have from the beginning.
And then music returns. But this time it’s diegetic, bleeding through the walls to drown out whatever it is the neighbours are arguing about. Demis Roussos, singing Forever and Ever – which makes one wonder if, somewhere close, Alison Steadman’s Beverley is hosting the world’s most excruciating dinner party.
Now that is true horror.
Continues until 22 May 2021