Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind has been running in various iterations since 1988, with an ever-changing roster of extremely short “plays.” 30 plays in 60 minutes, to be exact, although don’t allow that premise to fool you into thinking this is sketch comedy.

This is thoughtful and dynamic stuff, and while you do find yourself laughing quite often, it’s generally not at anything that could be described as a joke.

Created by Greg Allen and constantly developed and re-created by the Neo-Futurist theatre company, the line-up for Too Much Light is as malleable as its ever-changing list of super-short “plays.” The version we see here in Edinburgh is performed by six energetic young men and women from the New York, San Francisco and Chicago branches of the Neo-Futurists, engaging warmly and casually with their audience.

The 30 plays take on a multitude of genres and media, from lip-sync rap to personal monologues to pop-culture parodies, poetry, surreal comedy skits, audience participation and, yes, genuinely thoughtful one-act theatre. Each member of the audience is given a “menu” of plays which can be called out by number throughout the show, either until the Neo-Futurists run out of plays or the hour is up.

This is a show with something of a cult following behind it - two times over, in fact. Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind is an established institution that finds regular audiences at each of the Neo-Futurist branches in the US, and as such is an excellent fit for the Fringe. Funny,weird and experimental, but without feeling the need to make a big deal of itself.

The second tier of Too Much Light’s cult following is, I suspect, the reason why its preview performance very nearly sold out. One of the Neo-Futurists, Cecil Baldwin, is the star of the popular surreal horror/storytelling podcast Welcome to Night Vale, which has achieved worldwide acclaim and gained him something of a following online. It’s difficult to say just how much of the audience came to the show via Baldwin’s Twitter feed, but once they arrived they seemed thoroughly invested in Too Much Light rather than singling out any one of its performers.

The “30 plays in 60 minutes” premise is likely to mean Too Much Light will be mistaken for sketch comedy, but there’s a reason why it’s listed in the theatre section of the Fringe guide. This is thoughtful and dynamic stuff, and while you do find yourself laughing quite often, it’s generally not at anything that could be described as a joke.

You probably won’t like every play in this show, but that’s the magic of it: if you enjoy 25 out of 30 plays, that’s still a pretty good ratio. If the widespread laughter and attentive behaviour from the audience was anything to go by, then there were far more hits than misses.

Reviews by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

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★★★★★

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Performances

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The Blurb

An ongoing, ever-changing and always original attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. Created by Greg Allen, written and performed by award-winning Neo-Futurists from San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, the show is never the same twice! Featured on This American Life. 'An entire Fringe Festival condensed into one show ... it is the ideal entertainment for an audience with eclectic taste and a rapidly shrinking attention span' (NY Times) 'Like the glory days of Saturday Night Live, Too Much Light is not just funny but faintly surreal' (Backstage.com).

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