Written for Spoonfed. Originally published 15 March, 2013
“Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. ” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
I almost don’t want you to read this. It feels impossible to review Ring without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t experienced it yet. Ring, conceived and directed by David Rosenberg and produced by Fuel Theatre, is one of those shows that reveals as much about you as it does about its more traditional characters. From the minute you enter the building, you and your perception of every other audience member becomes an integral part of your experience. Technically, that goes for any theatre production but during Ring, you’re awareness of it is heightened.
Key to the show’s singularity is the way it helps you realise how you might feel in uncertain situations by challenging the everyday use of your senses. It grounds you in your own body, plays with the notion of presence and provokes questions about perception and trust. It does this with a sophisticated soundscape (binaural recordings delivered via headphones) that transports you to another multi-dimensional place but also allows you to build up that place yourself. As well as this masterful manipulation of your hearing and thinking, it places you in complete darkness.
Rarely will you experience total darkness like this. Although theatre companies have played with putting audiences in the dark before, it’s not often this pitch black and it lasts for just under an hour. For me, not being able to use sight for so long messed with my perception, not only of what was around me but of myself. At times I touch my own arm to reassure myself I still exist here, in the form I remember.
The plot for this show begins the minute you walk in and things really get going in the dark when you hear a creepy whisper that creates a character for you and convinces you of the others around you. It sets in motion a short evening of dream-like flashes, conjured in your mind by the voices streaming into your head, aided by the movement you can sense around you.
Still, you’re never quite sure of exactly what’s happening, never confident in the consequences of the unfolding events because you’re never sure if any of them are real. That is, “real” in either your reality outside the headphones or the “reality” of the characters you hear through them. The line between these exterior happenings and internal images is blurred and complicated, although, maybe that depends on how much you trust your own sense of hearing?
While the form this show takes is remarkable, the characters and the story don’t live up to it. In this so-called “thriller”, there are some clear scenes, and many that aren’t, but it’s vagueness is its strength and its thrill is its form. Since the theatre makers have such power over the images they can bring to our minds, they do leave us a bit short changed