With the rapid rise of the surveillance state, our privacy is increasingly violated and our personal information exposed to a wider world. Or so the political jumping-off point for Theatre Ad Infinitum’s latest touring production, Light, would have us believe.
From here, director George Mann and his cast dive headlong into an eerie dystopian future, inspired by whistle-blower Edward Snowden‘s surveillance revelations. In this reality, thought implants are authorised. Using this technology the Government begins to monitor the thoughts of the populace under the guise of rooting out terrorism.
Not to discredit the social relevance but this is not exactly an original vision of a future world. However, the ways in which the company created this world brimmed with originality and ambition. The Lowry’s studio theatre was plunged into darkness and the action took an inventive turn with the employment of mobile torches and LED strip lights held by the performers. The rapid mobility of these fierce white lights contrasted beautifully with the heavy surrounding darkness. It engendered a nightmarish atmosphere full of creeping, monstrous shadows in which the audience was complicit in the act of creating an entirely imaginary world.
At times, Light is almost cinematic. Rather than choosing what to watch on a fully-lit stage, we are directed to specific short snapshots. The visual control is executed with such technical ability, precision and dynamism that it makes for dizzying optical illusions and ingenious shifts in perspective.
The immersive soundscape by Chris Bartholomew, which adds distinctly to this filmic quality, is as detailed and precise as the action on stage. There is a combination of recorded and live sound that never ceases throughout the show. High-tech futuristic noises combine with crackling electronic, enhancing the dizzying pace of the piece while eerie echoes of a tender lullaby float in and out at crucial moments.
Theatre Ad Infinitum are an ensemble theatre company who create performances which are primarily physical, and Light is no exception. This is theatre without spoken words – everything is mimed. In this the performers are clearly very skilled as they expertly create the play’s world with only their bodies and a handful of torches.
Despite their talent, at times the performers seemed weighed down by a convoluted plot. A fair amount of exposition and explanation had to be communicated through subtitles on a large electronic notification board above the action. Although this added to the filmic quality of the show and the futuristic style, it seemed more like a necessity rather than an artistic decision. In fact, the very presence of the subtitles served to highlight the limitations of mime for complex stories with a wide scope like Light.
Light was most captivating when the focus was on its less conventional modes of story-telling. Visually and narratively, this was an ambitious piece of theatre. The company told a complex political tale in a uniquely artful way. But, leaving the theatre afterwards, the style resonated far longer than the story. Maybe that’s due to the breathtaking ingenuity in that department. Bold, original and exhilarating, I am sure that images from this unique theatrical experience will haunt my retina for some time.
Images by The Lowry
What: Light by Theatre Ad Infinitum
Where: The Lowry Studio, Salford and touring
More info: http://www.theatreadinfinitum.co.uk/