Coma @ Summerhall

★★★★ – immersive psychological thriller

From the creators of Seance and Flight; Coma is the latest offering of immersive fear-theatre from producers Darkfield. 

It is a characteristically drizzly Edinburgh evening as we wait outside the now notorious shipping container that resides beside Summerhall throughout the festival. 

If you’re scared of the dark? Go home.

Claustrophobic? Best you don’t come in.

A fairly ominous opening gambit from the otherwise amiable usher who prepares us for the show.

Coma lies somewhere between immersive art installation and audio theatre. Listed within the Fringe and Summerhall theatre programmes there are no performers to witness and minimal special effects. The majority of the show takes place in the pitch dark, an effective ploy that blurs the boundary between real and imagined. 

Set in a hospital ward the audience faces a decision. Reclining on the antiseptic doused bunk beds – do you take the placebo pill that has ‘absolutely no effects’? Suspended without visual anchors and looped into an audio stream that derails your sense of space and self – how long until you believe you’ve actually already taken the pill?

Coma is a visceral whole-body experience. I found myself shielding my face and cringing away from the increasingly erratic Doctor throughout. Suggestive dialogue and thumping walls warp any sense of perspective. Smell and temperature are also manipulated. It is hard to tell how much of the experience is provided by one’s own mind. An effective psychological thriller that ingeniously uses suggestion and sensory deprivation to challenge the boundaries of traditional viewing experience.

Various times, daily until 25 August. The Terrace at Summerhall.

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