Brighton Festival 2013
We were met by several “greeters” who led us in groups into the auditorium and sat us down. We were introduced to the narrator, Daniel Marcus Clark, whose soft, melodic voice led us through the story. After a brief explanation we put on black eye masks that allowed you to keep your eyes open without light getting in, if you so wished. We preferred to keep ours closed.
Unfortunately, the plot was woefully derivative of every sci-fi dystopian tale imaginable, from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Orwell’s 1984, to The Matrix and beyond. Set in 2040 (according to Clark) or 2056 (according to the promo blurb), the world has flooded and only one city remains on dry land. Outcasts live on rafts on the city’s fringes while it’s inhabitants work as mindless drones for the all-powerful Rhinegold Industries. The city-dwellers are prevented from dreaming in order to subjugate them, but one worker, Jack Richards, starts experiencing meaningful dreams. Richards discovers fellow rebel dreamers and goes on the run, both in his world and in the dream realms. Through what was essentially a guided meditation for an hour and a quarter, we drop in and out of these two worlds as Richards discovers his past and his destiny. Which all makes it sound a lot more exciting that it actually was.
Technically, the 3D surround sound was excellent, creating virtual depth and space with a variety of sound effects layering upon each other that conjured up different locales, and “noise swipes” signifying scene changes. The acting was competent as well, and it was almost a shame to have the narrator constantly breaking the fourth wall by describing the various sets, as this could have very easily been incorporated into the story with the characters aurally depicting the scenes.
But to call this an “Earfilm” is like describing television as an “animated magazine” or cinema as “flattened theatre”. The fact is, it was a radio play. Admittedly, this was the equivalent of a cinematic version of a radio play, with a large group of people listening in a room together with enhanced production. However, while the concept of listening to a radio play and using your imagination to conjure up your own internal imagery may seem incredibly innovative to anyone under thirty who suffers from Attention Deficient Disorder, the rest of the audience were distinctly underwhelmed. No one left the experience particularly enthused or amazed. Frankly, we expected a lot more than just a competent surround sound Radio 4 adaptation of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.