Double review – unsettling audio that turns your home into a sci-fi dystopia

·2-min read

‘This is supposed to be a controlled space, a safe space,” says Christopher Brett Bailey at the start of Double, and he’s right. We are not in some unfamiliar theatre, like the shipping container where Darkfield has conducted similar audio experiments, but in our own kitchen. We’re meant to feel protected here, so it’s all the more alarming when the play sets you on edge. It’s as if your very home has been transformed.

This is how it works. You and a companion download a smartphone app. At the appointed hour, you sit opposite each other over the kitchen table and put on headphones. Instructed to close your eyes, you have an intense 20-minute sound experience that has the immersive quality of Simon McBurney’s The Encounter. At one point I’m convinced Brett Bailey is not just whispering in my ear but leaning on my shoulder.

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The scenario itself is a piece of sci-fi daftness inspired by the medical condition known as the Capgras delusion. You’re supposed to believe your listening partner is a double, a body-swap replica. Even after all these months of lockdown, that’s a fanciful proposition.

What is not fanciful is the aural picture it creates around you. Performed with due gothic seriousness, it gets under your skin by sounding so real. The radio and the kettle could be yours, the fly truly does seem to circle your head – and isn’t that your glass that just smashed?

Most online theatre struggles to get beyond the screen, to be present in the way live performance is present. By turning your house into a stage, this one, fleetingly, becomes a doppelganger for the real thing.

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