There are a couple of world firsts happening at the Cremorne Theatre QPAC at the moment, and they’re both related to the groundbreaking new musical Black Box. 

Firstly, the musical itself is a world premiere that tells the story of David Warner, a man who you’ve probably never heard of but who may have saved your life. Black Box is Queenslander Paul Hodge’s ground-breaking new musical based on the extraordinary true story of the Australian inventor who created the black box flight recorder that is now on every plane around the globe.

The second unique thing about this musical is that audience members wear headphones during the production, Black Box the first binaural musical. Binaural recording uses two microphones, arranged at the position of human ears to create a 3D stereo sound sensation for the listener of actually being in the room with the recorded actors and instruments. The headphones allow audienc members to be totally immersed in a 360-degree world of sound, making this show part musical, part live theatre, part podcast and part history lesson. 

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Audience members experience the show both live, and with 360-degree music and sound in headphones.

The experience is quite unlike any other in a theatre—the auditory world that inspired David to create his life-saving invention shapes the audience’s experience at Black Box, which utilises pre-recorded voices and instruments to create a world of music and memory to tell his story. While actors Helen Dalimore and Michael Cormick are on stage, the rest of the cast including Bernard Curry, Bryan Probets, Hugh Parker, Liz Buchan and Elliot Baker, are present through a history-making audio experience. It’s a sensory rollercoaster that matches nicely with the theme of recording sounds to make sense of air tragedies. 

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Michael Cormick and Helen Dallimore play David Warner and his wife Ruth, respectively.

Driven by the death of his father in an unexplained plane crash when he was eight, Black Box follows David as he fights for an invention that could record the final moments of a flight before it crashes – the black box. His obsession around this invention places his career, marriage and mind at risk. It’s a show about memory, and how we hold onto, and let go of, those we love.

Black Box writer and composer, Paul Hodge, says, “David’s invention was inspired by his love of music. I wanted to create a theatre form that was as inventive as David’s idea, which led to the use of recorded voices and music, in the same way the black box gives recordings, to immerse the audience in David’s sound world.”

The production, directed by David Berthold, is in Brisbane for a strictly limited season ending on May 19. 

Black Box, until May 19. Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Cultural Precinct, Cnr Grey and Melbourne Streets, South Bank. 

Elizabeth Best

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