Lovers Anonymous Proves to be Deeply Personal — The EOI Review

The Logo for the Amet Community

They are calling me again. I’ve found myself tasked with absolute control over two different women’s lives. I get to decide what happens to their entire future existence in one instant. It’s a weighty decision on my shoulders and right now, I only know one thing:

I don’t see any good answer.

Terence Abernathy, the strange founder of the Amet Community

As the pandemic rolls on, immersive creators continue to experiment with new ways to deliver stories. Candle House Collective created an entire program for such experiments with their FireStarter Initiative. This initiative allows new creators to offer narratives through the CHC site that can give audiences something new and exciting to enjoy.

Recently, the FireStarter Initiative brought audiences the show Lovers Anonymous. This show centers around a strange little place call “Amet”. There’s even a wonderfully retro introduction video created by Amet’s founder, Terence Abernathy. It explains Amet and that you are here because you are an American who has volunteered to help its society. But so many questions remain. Is Amet a city? A cult? A self-governing collective that somehow carved out part of Alaska?

The phrase that proves Love is a mental sickness in Amet.

Even stranger, check out the above image from that intro video. In Amet, “Love” is a sign of mental illness and that’s where you come into play. Since Americans do not recognize love as dangerous, we are better suited to decide the fate of two women who have fallen in love. To make that decision, the audience member will get to speak to both of them individually and together.

Lovers Anonymous echoes many of Candle House Collective’s previous audio-only immersive experiences. Candle House Collective specializes in over-the-phone immersive theatrical performances. They put audience members into slightly different realities with people who feel familiar and circumstances that feel terrifyingly unique. Lovers Anonymous thematically fits very well into that sort of show idea.

At the same time, the show also branches into its own territory in several ways. This experience uses multiple forms of technology beyond just audio. It includes audio, text, video calls and even PowerPoint presentations shared from various computers. Each type of technology matches the narrative moment where it appears perfectly. The emotional Lilli wants to see you as she chats while the cerebral Chantal prefers to organize her thoughts beforehand. I have seen literally dozens of various virtual remote shows in the last 16 months and I was still pleased and surprised by this show. Lovers Anonymous really understands how to use technology in a way most immersive shows fail to grasp.

The two women whose lives you are going to determine.

What caught me the most off-guard, however, was how upset this show made me emotionally–in all the right ways. Because of the distancing aspect of technology, most virtual shows have a hard time creating truly deep emotional investment in their audience. It takes just the right combination of story, performance and understanding of how people interact over technology to bridge that gap. Lovers Anonymous reaches right through its technological lines and ripped my heart from my chest.

Its two main women felt entirely real. They each had desires and fears, wants and worries, and I understood it all. It made the decision I ultimately had to make one that hurt almost as much as decisions I have made in my own life. Two entirely fictional characters asked me to choose their future and it broke my heart to do so. Lovers Anonymous is that good a show.

Everything about Lovers Anonymous compels for me. Its design is impeccable. Its use of technology works superbly. Teagen Earley and LaKecia Harris bring such real life to their main women couple of Lilli and Chantal that I honestly wished they were real so I could keep talking to them for years to come. Marvin Bell brought a different but equally real energy as Chantal’s father who had a real bone to pick with America for very good reasons. Sar Cohen and William Youmans brought the strangeness of Amet to life so quickly and efficiently that I also wished Amet was real because I would definitely want to visit and understand what the heck was really going on there. In fact, I hope the creators contemplate bringing that community back for another, different tale. I would love to learn more about the place that hates love.

Lovers Anonymous shows exactly how compelling immersive can be even across technology. It shows that with planning and a true understanding of how we access the modern world, even the technological barrier cannot stop real moments of interaction between characters and audience. The greatest compliment I can give is that I hope Lovers Anonymous returns once more so that other audience members can experience it.

Equally, I hope Candle House Collective continues to use its FireStarter Initiative to bring new creators and experiences to the world. If Lovers Anonymous is what that initiative can help create, I hope they keep starting fires for a long time to come.

Candle House Collective is busy working on their new shows. You can learn more about their company and join their mailing list here.  


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Darkfield Radio Enters Your Ears and Invades Your Mind – EOI Review

Featured Image for Darkfield Radio

I sit in a chair in my home with one thought running through my head: I am terrified. There are visitors here that I did not invite and I would love for them to be gone. But I can hear one of them talking to my roommate and the other one is whispering right in my ear and they have no intention of departing. Not while I’m still alive, anyway. Darkfield Radio has done it again.

The logo for Darkfield Radio

Darkfield Radio was originally created in the UK as a collection of multi-sensory audio experiences in complete darkness. Now,  creative directors and Darkfield founders Glen Neath and David Rosenberg have turned their audio narrative skills into a remote experience. Audience members download the Darkfield Radio app onto their phone, put on headphones or earbuds and the performances stream directly into their ears.

Darkfield Radio currently has three different tales that audiences can experience. Two of them (“Double” and “Visitors”) are made for two audience members to experience in the same room at the same time. The final show, “Eternal,” is designed for one person lying in their bed. Each of these tales brings a different type of horror to its audience and they are work very, very well.

Two audience members sit across from each other for Double
Maybe the person across from you isn’t themselves anymore…

“Double” begins as a discussion about the Capgras delusion, a real condition where a person believes someone close to them has been replaced by a dark, evil version. That delusion instantly becomes something to worry about given that you listen to this tale with someone you know (and presumably care about) sitting directly across from you. Have they been replaced? Are they worried that you have been? An incredible performance from Chris Brett Bailey only adds to the terror in the latter half of the narrative. He shifts the story in a subtle way and it is both thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time.

“Eternal”, the solo show, uses the novel Dracula as inspiration for an intimate show that is all the more terrifying because you experience it lying down. The binaural audio allows Lloyd Hutchinson to get really close to you as he creates a looping narrative that is compelling, dark and nerve-wracking. I had never had goose bumps from having someone just speak to me–until this show.

Lying on your bed might be the worst decision.
Nothing wrong with lying on your bed, right?

For me, the true star of these tales is the show “Visitors.” Two audience members are asked to sit in a very specific way for this show. Then the horror begins as two visitors arrive who are different, unnerving and worst of all, persistant. Visitors is one of the most uncomfortable 20 minutes I have ever experienced and I mean that as a tremendous compliment. Sonya Seva and Greer Dale-Foulkes as the two visitors do an absolutely fantastic job in creating a tense, creepy atmosphere. They hit just the right balance between their calm demeanors and the absolute nightmare of what they want to do with you. Everything about this show works equally well. Glen Neath’s script is perfectly vague, offering just enough information to allow your own mind to fill in the rest. Neath and David Rosenberg’s direction shows they know exactly how to increase the tension throughout the tale.  The binaural audio is so expertly created I literally thought something had happened in my home that only happened in my ears. It is so good I still think it might have been real.

Darkfield Radio is a fantastic set of audio horror experiences. Each one of their shows builds tension and psychological horror in different ways and they are all very good at what they want to do. Best of all, the experiences are all performed each night which allows audiences to spend an evening lost in Darkfield’s world. Darkfied Radio offers audiences the perfect ratio of terror and discomfort for the modern age. Perhaps the best compliment I can give Darkfield Radio is this: I want them to make so many, many more of these so I can come back to their terrifying world again and again. Do yourself a favor and tune in to Darkfield Radio as quickly as you can. Just be ready to have a hard time sleeping after you do.

Darkfield Radio has ongoing performances of each of their three shows for various countries and timezones. Tickets for every country and timezone can be found here.

In the US, the shows run Tues, Thurs and Sat nights through April 29th, with two timeframes based on Eastern and Pacific timezones. Tickets run $7.50/partipant for each show. 


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