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.

© Alex Brenner. Ad Infinitum's Light at BAC London, Feb 2016

© Alex Brenner.
Ad Infinitum’s Light at BAC London, Feb 2016

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.

© Alex Brenner. Light, BAC London, Feb 2016. Directed by George Mann

© Alex Brenner.
Light, BAC London, Feb 2016. Directed by George Mann

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!

Light is at BAC to Feb 13, 2016
Review first published in Reviewsgate, Feb 2016