I think the concept behind Into the Dark is very strong and very clever. Without knowing for sure exactly what the creators were trying to do, of course I can’t be certain, but I think they wanted the audience to hear the music through their ears and not with their eyes; to find layers and intricacies of sound that might ordinarily be overlooked when thinking about the cellist’s legs or watching the conductor’s baton. Whether they succeeded, I don’t know.
Let’s begin at the beginning. The venue is Shri Yoga in Teneriffe and from the outside, it feels mysterious and inviting. As you stand outside, you can hear the orchestra beginning to warm up and the curiosity from the audience outside is strong. When the doors open, you are greeted individually by a member of the orchestra and led into the space, where you remove your shoes and are then blindfolded. You’re led to a yoga mat with a cushion and a blanket and arrange yourself as you like. I struggled with this a bit as I’m taller than a yoga mat and wasn’t sure if I could stretch out or not, so I didn’t and lay curled in on myself, but that’s my own issue.
When the orchestra starts to play, I try to silence my mind (which was busy unpicking my day; is where I left my car actually a park? How many cupcakes do I need to make tomorrow? What will I write in my review?), and let the music wash over me. I try to experience the experience as I think it is intended.
The music, as you would expect, is wonderful. It entwines itself around you and engulfs you, and your own imagination provides images for your mind to rest in. The choice of pieces is brilliant. But my question is, did we need to be blindfolded to feel that way? I don’t think I felt less distracted, or more engaged, or more aware of the instruments. My mind did wander (probably 30 cupcakes, that’ll be enough), but it would have wandered anyway. I do enjoy watching the musicians in an orchestra, so part of me did feel deprived of this part of the theatre of an orchestral experience (part of the plan?).
Part of the description is that the musicians will move around you in your supine pose, and presumably you will feel more connected to that instrument, to that piece of music, to that musician. What it really feels like is that someone is moving around behind you and you don’t know who or why, and the sound doesn’t really change. I could tell a few times that there was a specific instrument in close proximity but it didn’t really cause me to pick it out of the overall sound and listen to it. If I was to have a musician sit down next to me and play their violin, I would want my eyes open, to be able to watch the extreme technical mastery up close.
Interestingly, though, at the end of the set when we were allowed to remove our blindfolds and we sat up and blinked, I was not facing the way I thought I was facing. I’d been picturing the orchestra to the front of me (and for some reason, down a staircase, I don’t know why since it was in a yoga studio), and they turned out to be behind me, and I was facing a wall. A bit disorienting, but curious that my mind automatically assumed the action was in front of me.
Overall, I feel that what I am taking away with me is the concept. I love the idea that the walls are broken down between the orchestra and the audience, that the orchestra is removed from a big stage and brought closer to the audience. I love the idea of listening to music in the dark with a bunch of people, each of us experiencing it in a different way, with different images dancing in our heads.
By Bec Newton
This review is based on the author’s experience of the 6pm show on Saturday 16 May.