Our obsessive use of technology, the freedom of the internet and our persistence to control planet seems to send us down the path of an Orwellian future. A future where totalitarianism rule, where even our most private thoughts are a part of the world wide web. Throw in nightmarish, pulsating light play and you’ve got the sci-fi space of Light at Battersea Arts Centre. Theatre Ad Infinitum aims to break out of the box and challenge performance expectations, and this tale of how abuse of power takes its first form certainly throws us out of the light and into disturbing wonder.
Inspired by Edward Snowden’s revelations and state surveillance, Light throws us into the darkness of the human mind and explores how innovation can corrupt us. It demonstrates how easily we can slip and what consequences we can bring upon ourselves in a world so ‘enlightened’ as ours. Following a young government agent hunting down ‘terrorists’ who seek illegal disconnection, we get a glimpse of what dystopia looks like. Through physical theatre and mime they show us how technology can enslave us, as the performers are thrown about the space, puppet-like by command from light and sound. The totalitarian regime monitors its citizens through implants which are beautifully created by small, red lights the performers seem to control with their thumbs. Everything about this show shouts atmosphere and clever timing. As lights flicker on and off to the disturbing but highly effective soundscape, you can’t help but wonder how on earth they do it. Lights come in all forms and intensities and create a form of storytelling in themselves – the attention to detail and symbolism is remarkable.
The performers interact brilliantly with the demanding technology throughout and convey a moving story of love and betrayal, and their execution is slick. However, as the mime is quite naturalistic with stylisation added in beat with the light, I missed more abstract movement, an expression of the nightmare they find themselves in. As an idea, Light is very interesting and one to remember, but it would be great with a deeper insight into the struggles and minds of the citizens being deprived of thought-privacy. The story-telling is simple and effective but perhaps missing another layer. A clearer distinction between ages of cast members would also help highlight the relationships in the story.
As a whole experience, Light is a mix between a heightened sensory adventure and important political undertones. Coupled with Theatre Ad Infinitum’s high physicality and bravery it’s a show that’s visually exciting as well as thought-provoking.
Light is playing at Battersea Arts Centre until 15 October. For more information and tickets, see Battersea Arts Centre website.
Photo: Alex Brenner