The pitch blackness is simultaneously suffocating and comforting, with Chris Bartholomew’s highly orchestral, film-inspired composition gently easing the audience into the opening of Light.
As the name suggests, this is a show where the lighting provides the text, the colour, the emotion and indeed the action. It is all manipulated by the cast themselves through torches, LED light bars and thumb tips, their substitution for speech. Light appeals to deaf and hard of hearing audiences as much as anyone, a physical theatre piece where mime is prevalent and the lightscape directs attention. Conceptually innovative work by Theatre Ad Infinitum, it nevertheless is cheapened by George Mann’s somewhat predictable and uninspired storyline.
The true magic in Light is as an abstract piece – the use of light and colour add dimension and layering to a rare show that doesn’t require text to tell its story. A dystopian future fits the blackness that envelopes the audience, those that have unwittingly stepped into the world where Big Brother can control your very thoughts. There is a clear sense of film sequence here, from the orchestration to the script – inspirations are taken from genre-defining productions such as Minority Report or 1984. The music works perfectly, fusing electronic with classical to punctuate the production and add depth.
The script, unfortunately, is too predictable and ultimately detracts from the lighting concept. The latter half of the show shifts from a concept piece that allows the audience to fill in the blanks in background and story to a flashback explanation that only highlights the threadbare plotlines. Light starts out as a story tangible enough to be unnerving, yet ends as a caricature that breaks the connections forged through everything unsaid to begin with. The slogans around the “Freedom of Thought” or “Connected, We Are Free” have enough grounding in Edward Snowden’s state surveillance findings as to bring gravitas to a show that is diluted by a Hollywood makeover.
Light is in many ways a showcase, a way of producing theatre that doesn’t need the narrative spelled out. The power of the imagination and the play of light and shade are enough to instantly transport an audience. Non-verbal action builds suspense, momentum and frames a story that exists best in the murky half-light. When fully illuminated, the cracks in the narrative are too easy to pick out.
Writer/ Director: George Mann
Producer: Theatre Ad Infinitum
Design: Fiammetta Horvat; Chris Bartholomew (sound and composition); Matthew Levethall (lighting)
Cast: Charli Dubery; Matty Gurney; Nir Paldi; Deborah Pugh; Michael Sharman
Images courtesy of Alex Brenner.
Light plays at Battersea Arts Centre until 17 June 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.