Wednesday

Beyond the Bright Black Edge of Nowhere at Brighton Digital Festival 2014 by Rosie Davis

In 1959 eight students from Magic Valley Liberal Arts College in Idaho, America went missing, along with their science teacher. They were never found and the investigation into their disappearance was closed. On 1st September 2014 in Brighton, England, Producer Simon Wilkinson stood in front of a packed out theatre and screened his telling of the mysterious tale. Rosie Davis reviews, Beyond the Bright Black Edge of Nowhere.  

Beyond the Bright Black Edge of Nowhere at BDF 2014




TOM (the Old Market Theatre) signed up as one of the venues taking part in the Brighton Digital Festival 2014, and wisely so, as I was welcomed by a queue of people at the ticket booth. It turns out it wasn’t only me that had flicked through the programme and found myself shivering, fearful yet drawn in by the simple, but effective blurb on this event. The people of Brighton obviously can’t resist a good conspiracy theory, and combined with live visuals and music, it was a must-see.

TOM was the ideal venue for Wilkinson’s multimedia show, the screen was in clear view of every ticket holder and the sound was faultless. The lighting and music were vital parts in creating the right atmosphere, and the technicians at TOM, should receive a gold medal for their seamless abilities.

Simon Wilkinson, the show’s Director stepped forth on the stage and explained how this project came about, and why he chose to focus on this unexplained mass disappearance. Simon is also the Director of Circa 69, a Production Company based in Brighton, where he works as an AV/Performance/Installation artist, and Beyond the Bright Black Edge of Nowhere brings this to light.

The project was commissioned by Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia where it was first performed. When Simon was asked to produce an artistic installation to be screened or performed at the square, his fascination with this haunting story was reignited. His first encounter with this story was as a teenager when his mother bought a copy of Mysteries of the World. The stories were always concluded and the mysterious events explained, except with this story. The explanation didn’t sit right and Simon never accepted that it was an alien abduction. Over 20 years later the story still had him thinking, and he embarked on a mission to find out more. What he discovered was more than he bargained for, with no archives from the police or records of the mass disappearance, the mystery deepened.

Simon turned his back on the audience and stood behind a desk that looked like it could’ve controlled the Starship Enterprise. The film began and the mysterious mass disappearance is told through a montage of B-movies,‘50s black and white films and commercials. The film includes sub-headings and a narration, but it is the combination of electronic and live classical soundtrack, which really created the atmosphere. The musical scores created an eerie vibe and along with the footage, Wilkinson illustrated this true story more vividly than a documentary could have done.

In order to bring this unfinished story to life Wilkinson had arranged for 8 actors to partake in his show. Each actor read out a monologue; a part of a letter, which had been written by the students.

When Wilkinson went searching for more information on this story, he discovered that 15 minutes away from where the Magic Valley Liberal Arts College had been was the Burley Historical Society. They had managed to obtain the 8 letters that the students had left, neatly laid out in a 12ft x 12ft box which had been found in the Great Basin Dessert 14 days after their disappearance. To check out the Burley Historical society website about the disappearances visit www.beyondthebrightblackedgeofnowhere.com.

Simon’s production and overall delivery of the piece was perfect. It caused a stir and left everyone thinking, but in a creative way. Simon had delivered the story in acts, cleverly conveying to me a sense of deception and corruption without making these conclusions explicit. Ultimately it was left for the audience to make their own minds up about what had really happened.

As the show ended I caught the odd sentence from passers by; “I wouldn’t have drunk the water.” People were attempting to piece together the unfinished story. I grabbed a moment with Simon after the event to gain more insight and shared with him the snippets of conversation overheard. He told me that that was what he had wanted.

This is the kind of show that would’ve worked brilliantly at White Night, so it's great news that the Brighton Digital Festival has now taken on the mantle of the odd and mysterious alongside supporting digital creativity. I hope this show gets shown at TOM again!

Rosie Davis - follow on Twitter @RosieDavisred

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