‘Knot’ was experimental.
With a thrilling new audio production, Darkfield Radio has delightfully returned to the airwaves with ‘Knot’ – a mind-melting, episodic experience. This interactive event challenges listeners, putting them through their paces in an attempt to prove that anything is possible, especially when you put your mind to it.
From producers Darkfield and Realscape Productions, ‘Knot’ is the next instalment in a strong line-up of at-home immersive experiences, which includes ‘Double’, ‘Eternal’ and ‘Visitors’. Taking theatrical productions in a COVID-world and planting them in the hands of the willing, this is a company that is revolutionising methods of entertainment. For instance, Darkfield Radio encourages audiences to tune into its app, don noise-cancelling headphones, submerge themselves in darkness, and close their eyes. From there, the show comes to life from the depths of one’s imagination, and in the comfort of their own home. There’s no masking up, no social distancing required, and, most importantly, no lockdown to threaten the course of the show. It’s exactly what thrillseekers need in an unpredictable world.
With this concept in mind, ‘Knot’ has shaken up the traditional formula and taken things to a new immersive level of extreme. Occurring over three episodes, which are to be played in succession on one night with half an hour intervals, the participant is asked to change location during each event. That is, the first episode positions us on a park bench, the second takes place in the passenger seat of a car, and the third in the centre of the largest room in a home. Mechanically, it requires a lot from its audience members; to map out potential listening locations and get to each destination for the ultimate experience. If able to, moving between locations will increase the level of immersion. If not, participants can still achieve the same effect indoors. With that, there’s a small safety concern for the first episode, especially if listening alone in a park in the dark, however, recreating the situation in a home garden or backyard makes for a fair substitute and will not detract from the adventure.
Within the experience is a detailed three-part story that introduces several characters and a range of catastrophic circumstances. Inspired by Nick Chater’s book, ‘The Mind is Flat’, Artistic Directors’ Glen Neath and David Rosenberg have challenged the mind in ‘Knot’, in a series of improvisations. As Neath discusses: “All our brain is essentially just making everything up as it goes along; there are no depths. We got into the idea that we are improvising characters and the story as it plays out, making associations that can help us make sense of the world.”
While this concept may not be fully understood at times, ‘Knot’ does rely heavily on listeners and their willingness to deep-dive into hypothetical situations and their interpretations of fragmented information. As there is a break between each episode, there’s time to decode the elements to expound meaning. But if the audience member is lost within these deep insinuations, or even distracted by outside elements, it may take some time to completely understand and digest the whole experience.
The first episode, if performed outside on a park bench, is heightened by the cold winter air. It’s tricky to follow at points, with a variety of performers bearing different accents, however, true to Darkfield Radio style, sound suctions closely to the ear and traverses off in the distance. The second episode, which was a particular favourite for this reviewer, was incredibly realistic. Situated in the passenger seat of the car, the audio was so layered and authentic that it almost felt as if the car was actually moving. Darkfield Radio’s ability to create these imagined states through sound is what makes their experiences so rewarding and a journey into an otherworldly space is achieved.
The final episode positioned the spectacle around an entire room, as the listener sits centre and characters whisper and chant incantations around them. While in this conclusory episode one may discover answers to the storyline, this episode did come off as the most chaotic out of the lot. In particular, speech patterns and dialogue were broken, references to the first and second episode were made sporadically and possibly too many things went on. It felt almost like Pandora’s box had been opened and these wild characters were out to play.
During the third instalment, some sounds didn’t blend as smoothly as others, i.e. there was a notable difference between just ordinary ambience and when a character spoke, almost as if it didn’t fade evenly between the two. Despite this, the dialogue persisted fragmented and frantic, allowing questions of whether the voices were in the room or in your head to arise. Playing on its title, ‘Knot’ talked about the knots found in space and time, almost as if fracturing the illusions created between real-life and fantasy. It makes sense that the episodes then occurred fragmented in style.
‘Knot’ is a much-needed escape provided by the powers-that-be, Darkfield Radio. The three-episode series intersect and interweave to question existence and provoke the imagination. While ‘Knot’ is sometimes hard to make sense of, Darkfield Radio’s style and skill are of masterclass level. Quite frankly, there is no production company investing and innovating in the same way. Darkfield always appears to be one step ahead of the trends and technology. If you’re ready to escape this COVID-world, grab a set of headphones and tune in to their dark and thrilling frequency.
‘Knot’ performs via Darkfield Radio until Saturday, 31 July 2021. For more information visit Darkfield’s website.
Photography Alex Purcell