Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), London (****)
There are many elements swirling around in Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Light - Orwellian warnings, oedipal conflicts, sci-fi films and contemporary politics of surveillance.
In the law of unforeseen consequences, Edward Snowden’s revelations are spawning a whole raft of theatrical responses. Ad Infinitum’s Light is one of them – a light show with a difference, pitched in darkness, lit by LED torches, sound-tracked like the crack of doom – at other times, Stanley Kubrick-like, swathed in irony with snatches of Beethoven, Benjamin Britten and Wagner.
Like Pink Mist, the production George Mann recently co-directed with John Retallack for Bristol Old Vic (currently running at London’s Bush Theatre), the precision of the cast is extraordinary. Now you see them, now you don’t – sudden snapshots of characters caught on the run, grappled to the ground, tied to a torture chair. Heart-stopping stuff and fairly relentless. But so impressive in execution.
Mann says the inspiration came from waking in a cold sweat from a nocturnal nightmare. His waking nightmare is that as a society/nation, we are sleepwalking into Orwell’s 1984 vision of dictatorship by mind control.
Created along with deaf actor, Matthew Gurney (here playing the political `Father’ figure with terrifying authority),with Light he’s certainly produced a 70 minute dystopian thriller with a story focussed around a young agent sent to capture a `terrorist’ leader intent on `disconnecting’ themselves from the controlling implants in the brain.
It is also a show that, by its visual, physical and subtitles framework crosses boundaries making it accessible to both deaf and hearing audiences.
Above all, Light is a futuristic warning as to where the digital, social media technology currently providing so much instant gratification could be leading us in a style as convincing and frightening as any Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster.
Dressed in black boiler-suits, with faces mainly seen only in profile – apart from small right and green light bulbs representing the thought message sent from one brain to another – Ad Infinitum’s superb cast create an indelibly paranoid world, with a young Eileen Atkins lookalike, Deborah Pugh particularly striking as the terrorist-leader whose identity presents the young agent, Alex, with his biggest life and loyalty challenge.
We have been warned!