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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition - Initiation

Initiation. Image by Hannah Gutman

A Little Devil

They say the greatest trick the devil ever played was to make people believe he didn't exist. In Initiation, Matthew Bratko and Frank Sweeney try to make you believe he does. Or, at least, that there are mysterious powers at play in the universe. Knee deep in cliches and stereotypes, Initiation knowingly plays with horror tropes. Delivering an audio-immersive, choice filled experience that drags you into strange places. Built around Zoom and a series of ever demanding challenges, a devilish narrator guides potential acolytes towards the moment of initiation, wherein failure to complete any challenge results in the player being expelled from the ritual. A little devil playing at being a grown up demon, if not quite as scary as you might expect, Initiation proves to be much more fun than you might at first have imagined.

Showing hints of Eyes Wide Shut, Suspiria, and The Devil Rides Out to name but a few, Initiation puts a decidedly modern spin on meeting a sexy stranger in a cool club and waking in a dungeon. Beyond that it wouldn't be fair to say as spoilers would diminish the experience. For anticipation is the real catalyst here, with the blurb and pre-show build-up doing much of the heavy lifting. Like an adult themed rollercoaster the thrills are safe unless you're extremely prone to scaring easily. Indeed, part of Initiation's charm lies in its knowing humour. At times you can't help but imagine Bratko and Sweeney, ensconced in a dark room before a black screen, breaking their hearts laughing.

With narration sounding like a pitch for a bad horror movie, and with scares nearer to The Addams Family than The Amityville Horror, Initiation relies heavily on gimmick and novelty. Testing the notion of the audience playing a dangerous game safely online, Initiation has some good fun doing it. Should it return, make sure to read the log-in email in full.

With Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition drawing to a close, one has to applaud all those involved. Those who kept strong and produced work, or kept strong when they were told they were no longer allowed to. To many this came as a surprise. Throughout Dublin Fringe Festival 2020 the casts, crews, creatives and volunteers have adhered to the highest standards when it came to keeping audiences socially distant and safe. Given that Covid is likely to be around for some time, finding ways to live with it seems the only way forward. In that regard, Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition has shown how it can be done for theatre.

Initation, by Matthew Bratko and Frank Sweeney ran as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition


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