Darkfield Flight at the University of Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre Review

14-23 February 2020


Reviewed by Nigel Chester

Arriving soon at a terminal near you.

Our particular terminal was the Lakeside Arts Centre of The University of Nottingham. Lakeside is a fabulous art / theatre community building of the highest calibre. Parking is directly adjacent to the building and we were pleasantly surprised to discover it was free at all times.

The staff always friendly and helpful. And last night they became part of the backdrop, dressed in character, flight crew, stewards and ground staff, but before this we decided to have a light meal. My partner was delighted to discover that it was a licensed facility and chose a cold beer. Hot and cold drinks and divine looking cake was also available, we were directed to the departure lounge to await boarding instructions. We are advised that the performance is mainly in pitch darkness and not for the faint hearted, or those of a claustrophobic nature (but there were to be bail-out points).

It’s a cold, dark, wintery night outside but once inside the unassuming shipping container, it is transformed into the passenger compartment of an aeroplane many will have experienced.

Normal boarding procedures then followed, excluding passport checks (I blame Brexit), boarding passes, luggage into the overhead lockers, seat belts and safety procedures, all brought back memories of flights past

There was a palpable air of anticipation. Strangers bonding as seat numbers were first distributed at random, then checked to find couples and parties seated apart (that will teach us to pay to be seated together). Despite the assurances of the flight crew that “nothing bad will happen” there was a definite sense of trepidation, nervous giggles. It’s pitch black in the steel container, bible black, but I’m tempted to go with Terry Pratchett on this, and go with “as black as the inside of a cat” our pilot was Captain Schrodinger, it gave me a chuckle.

Dark, it was the sort of dark that you are unable to imagine and that I have only experienced once before that was in a welsh slate mine. I was warm and comfortable the dark for me was a cocoon. I could have slept in parts. But not everyone felt this. Flight is an art installation and as with all art you bring yourself and your own interpretation. The worlds pass round you and the words send you to somewhere else, your own thoughts challenged there is the normal and the abnormal sometimes the paranormal but always there is you and the hardware, being in the dark, you are almost totally reliant on sound, the quality is fantastic, from the workaday sounds of aeroplane life, drinks trolleys passing, babies crying, to the realistic sound and feeling of powering down the runway at take off

During the flight of around 30 minutes you live through mysterious scenarios playing out in the darkness, voices, whispers, two parallel and alternate realities, one where the plane lands safely and another that’s fate is not so assured.

The experience was held as part of the Nottingham Festival of science and curiosity following success in Edinburgh. We could appreciate the technology and engineering that had gone into it, but is it a “must see”? It was certainly entertaining, playing on people’s nervousness of flying and fear of the unknown, however, for me, much more could have been achieved and I felt the performance never really got airborne.

Rating: 3/5

Tickets cost £8 (booking fees may apply).

Darkfield – Flight is at the University of Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre from 14-3 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.lakesidearts.org.uk or call the box office on 0115 846 7777.

Nottingham Lakeside Arts, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD | 0115 846 7777

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