By Jen McGregor
There’s a lot to admire in this technically accomplished piece from Sleepwalk Collective. Plunged into darkness, the audience is addressed via individual sets of headphones. Iara Solano Arana’s honeyed voice talks about our biological reactions to particular stimuli – how her speech is just a series of electrical impulses in our brains, how our hearts are pumping specific chemicals in response to the thrill of this experience.
The technical delivery is perfect. A show that relies so heavily on technology is always at risk of something going wrong and a single missed cue can spoil the whole atmosphere, particularly at the Fringe where tech time is in such short supply. Amusements suffers no such setbacks. Arana’s diction and poise are exquisite; she stands completely still for much of the show, free from even the tiniest unconscious movements.
However, something feels a bit hollow. Borrowing the language of plane travel and fairground rides, Arana asks us to give our selves over to the cabin crew (Arana herself) and keep our hands inside the car at all times. There are several references to our bodies being filled with chemicals that sound very like adrenaline. The implication is that Amusements believes itself to be much more of a roller coaster ride than it actually is.
While it’s a very interesting experience and there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour than listening to Arana recounting an early experience of lying on a beach letting the incoming tide take her, it doesn’t amount to very much. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this show – Amusements could have gone a lot further in exploring how people respond physically to the things they hear. It seems to want to be hard-hitting and thought-provoking, but instead it’s all rather nice, gentle enough to feel like a guided meditation without ever straying into more uncomfortable responses. There’s plenty of scope for this to be an unsettling piece that stays with the audience for a long time afterwards, but it doesn’t feel as if it’s quite there yet.