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Review of Light by Theatre Ad Infinitum at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Light is a tricky production to describe to someone, and before seeing it I had little knowledge of what it was about or how it was to be performed. The first part of description I would offer though is that it really is rather superb.

Part light show, part silent movie (story progression is projected on a screen), and as I saw written somewhere, part mime. Now mime is undoubtedly a first for me at the theatre, and I think generally my little memory of it consists of Kenny Everett walking up invisible stairs or walking into non-existent walls. However from my experience of Light, I would like to see more of it.

Light is at its core incredible physical theatre. The five (yes only five, I was surprised as well) performers; three men and two ladies; have not only incredible fitness moving with ease across the stage, but also incredible spatial awareness as virtually all movement is performed in near total darkness. I first saw some of this type of blind movement in Headlong's 1984 (review here) last year and was overwhelmed by the speed of it then. Those scenes was occasional in that however and here the audience were treated with seventy minutes of it. That was not the only link with 1984 however, as not only was this performed as a single piece with no interval (a good decision to prevent tension breakup), but also by subject matter.

Set in the late twenty first century, it tells the story of the development of a system of sending thought by air (superbly depicted by light globules from head to finger to air) and it becoming used for bad (red) instead of good (green) as originally intended by its creator (Deborah Pugh). The head of the company using it for evil, essentially a dictator is Matthew Gurney, who together with Pugh combine to tell perhaps the key storytelling aspect of the whole performance. Without giving anything away these are the key characters of the story and share some of not only the most powerful scenes, but more importantly the humourous scenes. Comic moments are limited in the production, mostly from just simple looks to audience, but because of the sheer power of most of the story, they come as a tremendous relief.

The other reoccurring character is played by Michael Sharman, shaven headed and tremendously sinister in his pursuit of his preys, hiding seemingly just behind the pursued. He is also importantly for the story. the son of dictator Gurney. Supporting the three key characters are Charlotte Dubery and Robin Guiver as a collection of characters from rebel doctors to assistants.

Combined these five actors create a world of movement and drama from the simple use of lighting, including a proper usage of a selfie stick instead of taking a picture of a gurning face. Flickering lights portray everything from running, lifts ascending, motorbikes pursuing, underground systems and swimming in a pitch perfectly timed way. A repeating idea of the actors running straight towards the audience and seemingly off the edge is superb. Also remarkably clever was the switching of a drinks table to vertical, both innovative and highly effective.

Without any doubt this is a dazzling, inventive seventy minutes telling perhaps a very real feeling story of future technology and its use. In a time when the so-called "snoopers charter" is back in the news, there is no greater a time for this play to be seen and to have a real stirring in the minds of those that see it.

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Performance reviewed: Monday 2nd February, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Light was performed at the Royal & Derngate (Royal) on Monday 2nd February, 2015 from performers Theatre Ad Infinitum. Light is currently on tour and details can be found on their website at http://www.theatreadinfinitum.co.uk/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/



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