The experience begins with boarding passes being handed out by the WMC staff. It’s a quick start to Flight, an immersive 360-degree audio experience presented by studio Darkfield, currently playing as part of Wales Millennium Centre’s Llais Festival. At first this may feel like just a little bit of immersion-inducing fluff, however those of you in groups may realise you have not been seated with your friends. This is just the beginning of the tricks used by Darkfield to make you feel unsettled.
Upon entering the shipping container, you are treated to a faithful re-creation of an Airbus 320 economy cabin, creating a familiar environment which allows for immersion to take place. This is further enhanced by the hydraulics system and subwoofer which realistically simulate the flight take off experience bumps and all, and during flight the low drum of the engines can be felt.
Once you have taken your seats, stored any hand luggage in the overhead lockers, and put on the supplied headphones, the experience begins in earnest. As with any flight, you are asked to read the safety leaflet, fasten your seatbelt, ensure your tray tables are in the upright position, and then look forward and pay attention to the instructional video.
The video seems run of the mill at first, however, it begins to glitch, occasionally showing the air hostess wearing different outfits, the first sign that something isn’t quite right. When the video has finished, you’ll be enveloped in complete darkness (and I mean complete darkness). Prior to entering the experience, you are asked to turn off and remove any devices that give off light (including any glowsticks from the In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats experience!) to avoid any light pollution.
For the first minute nothing really happens. This allows those who may be feeling uncomfortable to remove their headphones, however, be warned that you will still have to sit through the rest of the experience if this is the case.
The sight deprivation serves as a really smart piece of storytelling as you navigate the dual narratives, one in which your plane lands, one in which it does not, particularly as the latter would be difficult to achieve visually in an immersive way. The darkness also enriches your other senses, of course, further allowing the audio storytelling to shine. I found its use of ASMR-esque dialogue and directional audio, to simulate movement around you, to be especially effective.
Flight’s narrative is based on the premise of Schrodinger’s Cat and the many world interpretations of quantum mechanics. Whilst this sounds rather heady, I’ll break these theories down for you, Schrodinger’s Cat works on the premise that if you approach a box with a cat in it, without any prior knowledge, the cat is both simultaneously alive and dead in your perception.
Flight takes this theory and applies it to itself, meaning to anyone outside of the plane, the passengers inside are both alive and dead, the narrative takes this further by applying the quantum mechanics many worlds interpretation theory on top, those of you familiar with the MCU will know this as the ‘multiverse’. In the context of Flight this is expressed in a universe in which you land and one in which you do not.
While this narrative is compelling, I would note that Flight as an experience does not lend itself to such complex story elements. Primarily due to how the narrative is delivered, there’s lots of screaming and noise in the audio making the delivery of these narratives sit on the peripheral of what you’re hearing at times. However, Flight does successfully use the two theories to further unsettle the passengers on the ‘flight’.
In the end, Flight by Darkfield delivers on a thought-provoking terror narrative, with its creative use of audio and constraint on visual elements, enhanced by a faithful set. This is definitely one for those seeking a horror experience.
Flight runs at the Wales Millenium Centre until 6th November. Tickets are available here.