In a technological netherworld, government agents struggle against rebels for control of the ‘mindspace.’ On orders from his father, Agent Petros sets out on a mission to shut down an illegal ‘disconnection clinic.’ The action plays out in a darkness punctured by searing lights and rumbling sound effects. It might sound like the plot for a B-list sci-fi movie, but this is the latest production from Theatre Ad Infinitum, the mime and physical theatre company behind Fringe hits including Translunar Paradise and Ballad of the Burning Star.
Light was at its enthralling best when it did away with the frills and relied on clever, well-oiled choreography.
As the cliches settle, Light becomes a chilling depiction of a post-Snowden world where privacy and freedom of thought have been driven underground. It’s a world inevitably drenched in 1984 and at times borrows a little too heavily from the novel, though this may say more about the clarity of Orwell’s vision than it does about Light’s own lack of originality.
In fact Light is an astonishingly ambitious show. It demands extraordinary skill from the cast and they rise to it effortlessly, performing with impeccable precision and timing. But this ambition is also the show’s undoing. In 2012 Translunar Paradise displayed the eloquence of mime and the power of telling a story without words: It was a show of heartbreaking simplicity, but here Light’s wider scope only highlights the form’s limitations. In order to situate the audience in this complex dystopian future, the production relies on mouthing, hand gestures and surtitles reminiscent of 20s cinema or graphic novels, a touch that often felt more like a necessary solution than a creative decision. This was particularly evident in the first fifteen minutes, when lengthy scene-setting straddled theatre and mime and ended up delivering neither.
Light was at its enthralling best when it did away with the frills and relied on clever, well-oiled choreography. When a flashback brought a sustained dose of this, the show captured vividly the reshaping of a mode of expression into a tool of oppression. “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear” appears on the screen as if from the mouths of our own politicians, bringing home the startling parallels between this nightmarish vision and the realities of government surveillance that Edward Snowden revealed last year. But largely the ideas get in the way of the execution and excellent performers are swallowed up in convoluted scenes full of plot devices for a narrative that has already lost its impetus.