Theatre Ad Infinitum – Light

Reviewer's Rating


Back in the heady days of August 2014, I reviewed Light for at the Edinburgh fringe and was wowed by the athletic manoeuvring of strip lights and bodies. Whilst the Barbican is no doubt a step up from the Edinburgh pleasance and, to my mind, has a hint of the futuristic in its architectural and design aesthetic, as a setting, the Pit sadly had less of a punch than the Pleasance dome.

That, or it really only works to see this show once. Don’t get me wrong it really is impressive what the company do with a few hand held beams and Charlotte Dubery and Robin Guiver, newest members of the cast, have had their work cut out to learn what must be a technically demanding show to perform.

Staged entirely in darkness, but for some cleverly wielded lights, the slick Theatre Ad Infinitum relate a future where our every thought can be read by the governing corporation Peace of Mind. Thought implants naively designed for the good by Cass, a new employer at Peace of Mind headquarters, are co-opted by Cyrus Dearden, her lover and head of the corporation, under the guise of rooting out terrorism. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear, we eerily read on a screen subtitling all of the silent action.

There are a few unexplained holes in the rules of this future. Through a movie style montage we watch as Cass peers through microscopes, discusses ideas with colleagues, trials her discoveries on volunteers, and so understand how the ‘thought connection’ technology develops. What’s not clear is how drilling into the side of a person’s head, to implant the mind chip, doesn’t kill them or how having the power to intercept and read thoughts, brilliantly represented by finger lights travelling from one head to another, also enables the interceptor to deliver an electric shock or virtual karate chop.

That said, the narrative is mostly related through visual storytelling and the company have found many enigmatic images for their audience to feast upon. At several points Cyrus Dearden, played with a sinister charm by the imposing Matthew Gurney, appears like Ming the Merciless, his face up-lit, picking out the population’s thoughts at random whilst they buzz around him like red flies. There are also some timely placed shifts in visual perspective allowing our focus to be drawn towards the finer details of the lovers’ relationship.  However, there is more than one instance where the images seem to remain quite small on stage and, very occasionally, border on unpolished.

I’m sorry to say that on seeing the production again, it does feel long to me. Perhaps the novelty has gone. The scenes where Alex Dearden, fallen hero and son of Cyrus, enters a victim’s mind space to ‘break’ them feel protracted and difficult to watch in the low, red lighting. The accompanying soundtrack of screams from the unseen victims nearby similarly feels hammy. I’m especially sorry to say this as I highly rate this company, who clearly are not short on talent. You certainly could do worse than sitting through the 70 minutes that Light plays for and overall it’s definitely worth seeing. Not least for the astounding work that can be achieved with a technically gifted cast and a few battery powered bulbs.