Sci-fi meets melodrama in Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Light and this is certainly an intergalactic leap of topic from last year’s sell-outBallard of the Burning Star. Having been plunged into darkness, we are introduced to our world eighty years or so from now, where the secret of entering people’s minds and reading their thoughts has been unlocked. The dominant power, Peace of Mind, harnesses the discovery under the guise of rooting out terrorism before it occurs. Even in this sinister setting there are humorous touches, imagining what technology would be available, including a human body dryer in place of towels.
There is an element of graphic novel about the aesthetics, as the ensemble’s playful use of various handheld lights creates a visually episodic effect. There are also clear influences from silent movies, in the exaggerated gestures and the projection of narration and dialogue on a screen above the stage, which is a lovely nod to the genre as well as sharing with us much needed information on top of Chris Bartholomew’s epic soundscape.
The company achieves truly stunning, almost cinematic imagery, where the single, blinding flashlight rotating around a sleeping figure is reminiscent of footage from space and the earth appearing out of the sun’s glare. There is also something deeply satisfying in seeing thoughts, represented by finger lights, being plucked out of the sides of heads. However, if you’re not sitting in the first couple of rows you may miss parts of the floor-based action, and occasionally the interrogation of prisoners becomes visually convoluted.
All of the visual delights would not be possible without the ensemble and the directorial precision for which the company are already reputed. Deborah Pugh is excellently cast as the betrayed heroine, not least because her movement and facial features appear superhuman, and the garish, red up-lighting on the faces of the male cast members is genuinely chilling.
Lest I fall prey to their mastery of the visual, and so neglect the material point, Light inevitably asks us how far we are willing to let the powers-that-be encroach on our privacy. This illustrates once again Ad Infinitum’s pertinent choice of subject matter and that they have created a show which will only increase in relevance.
This is not a production for epileptics or anyone wishing to take legible notes during the performance, as my multi-layered scrawl attests. It is, however, a show for anyone wanting to be wowed by a company who grow from strength to strength in their commitment to experimental and vital storytelling.