Scary movies and thriller novels unusually take me to a happy place, so you can imagine I was immediately intrigued by the theatrical experience, Seance.
A seance is defined as “a meeting at which people attempt to make contact with the dead, especially through the agency of a medium.” It’s something I have never done in ‘real life’.
As a teenager, I did participate in a Quija board a couple times, which is another method of connecting to Spirits. We were kids and it was all a bit of a joke. Sat in a dark room, a few candles lit and the only sound from the trickling rain on the windows. That alone felt spooky. We asked a couple of questions and the glass did move around the letters and numbers on the board. Again weird. But I’m a cynic and don’t really believe in the “other side” or ghosts or whatever. I was just genuinely fascinated by the thought of it.
So of course a theatrical seance was right up my street. Running as part of Halloween in the City, Seance lands in Manchester at the perfect time. Most are looking for a frightful time and this delivers in every way.
A shipping containers lurks patiently outside the Royal Exchange Theatre. It lays in wait preparing to devour its unsuspecting victims. Like a moth to a flame, an audience gathers under the glowing sign. A beacon of despair.
They enter the void and sit on a plush burgundy chair along a cold narrow table. The walls are blackened and small bronze alloy bells hang from the ceiling. All 20 individuals peer around the space and eye each other suspiciously. Some eyes are filled with fear whilst others glisten with excitement. I’m in the latter category.
An unknown woman shares her warnings and urges the weak to leave the chamber. This is the one and only chance to get out. Once the door is locked, there is no escape. We all reach for our headphones. They stretch around our heads, push against our ears and discreetly squeeze our craniums.
We are alone. The lights go out. The voices begin.
A man. Or what we believe is a man begins to softly speak. He is unsettling the room. He gives instructions. Those who do not obey hear his wrath. The man sounds old and has a worrying amount of strength in his voice. The kind of person you wouldn’t want to cross or be locked in a room with.
He starts to summon the spirits. We begin to realise this isn’t fiction. Indescribable sounds howl around the space, increasing in volume with each second. The container vibrates, the chairs vibrates and our ears and faces grimace in terror. It comes to a peak and suddenly stops.
The chosen one hears a chilling whisper in their left ear. The man sounds genuine for the first time since the darkness took hold. “I’m so sorry. It’s you”.
The end note
I do not scare easily. I really don’t. Especially when it comes to theatre. The Women in Black practically made me laugh out loud. But this audio experience gave me chills. I felt fear.
The pitch black, tight space matched with the intimate audio created a truly unique experience. I felt fully immersed in the Seance. The audio seemed to move from ear to ear in some sonic wizardry which encouraged me to believe the voices originated from different areas of the room. The whole situation was a breeding ground for terror. Whilst the 15 minutes running time was just enough of a taster to keep you suspended in the scene.
Here is my genuine first reaction from the moment I got out of the shipping container. I think it speaks for itself.
I urge you to feel the fright this Halloween and take part in the scariest theatrical experience I have ever experienced. Your trick even comes with a treat at only £5 a ticket. Do not miss this. You have been warned.