Review: Sensing the Dark (Esplanade’s Flipside 2018)
Darkness feels like an old friend in this concert with a twist.
Directed by Julian Wong with vocal direction by Irene Jansen, Sensing the Dark is a concert with a twist – the musicians and audience members are clothed under a blanket of darkness, initially with almost no light illuminating them as they begin to play. We’re not even privy to seeing their faces before the show begins, as they enter after the lights have already dimmed, and this adds an air of mystery to these musicians.
As terrifying as the darkness may seem sometimes, if one embraces it, one can and will find it a source of relaxation and comfort, with all other visual stimuli and noise cancelled to allow our ears to do the seeing. In a way, our sense of hearing is amplified in the darkness, and allows one to focus almost completely on the music without being distracted by how a musician looks or behaves, and letting the music speak for itself. Sound, in Sensing the Dark, feels tactile as it washes over us and we can practically imagine an aural soundscape that is being carefully constructed in front of us. The fact that the ensemble has had to memorise all the songs and sync their movements is an incredible effort in itself, allowing for seamless, perfectly coordinated transitions between numbers in the dark.
Songs in the repertoire include Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”, “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan and Robert Schumann’s “Traumerei”, lyrically or sonically dealing with themes of darkness, sleep and night. Arranged right, they bring audiences on a journey, initially into the darkness and expressing concepts of fear and emotional darkness, before touching on themes of sleep, dreams and rest. But Sensing the Dark isn’t all pitch black – Alberta Wileo introduces some choice lighting design along the way that grows from simple illuminations (such as a cool, ethereal spotlight on harpist Katryna Tan) to an eventual light up in the form of tens of incandescent lightbulbs glowing like stars in he night sky.
As Julian Wong himself begins singing Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life”, the darkness finally begins to dissipate as night turns to day within the Theatre Studio, and the entire ensemble comes together to express hope at the promise of light at the end of the tunnel. With a well curated playlist and unique twist that adds depth to each song, Sensing the Dark is a well performed, timely reminder that even with life’s ups and downs, if one learns to embrace the darkness as it comes, you might find it less terrifying and surprisingly healing as you sit back, relax, and let go of all the other distractions in life.
Performance attended 27/5/18 (Matinee)
Sensing the Dark plays at the Esplanade Theatre Studio till 29th May. Tickets available here