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Light review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘dazzling’

Theatre Ad Infinitum's Light at Battersea Arts Centre, London Photo: Alex Brenner Theatre Ad Infinitum's Light at Battersea Arts Centre, London Photo: Alex Brenner

Torch beams play across faces and strip lights flicker. Theatre Ad Infinitum’s intricate show, Light, deals in darkness. Set in a dystopian, totalitarian future and playing out against a black backdrop, George Mann’s production uses lighting and sound to sculpt a whole world. On this level it’s thrilling. LEDs become Thought Messages, transferable from brain to brain, and in one sequence a few beams of light transform the space into first a bar, then an elevator, then an interrogation cell. On this basis alone, it’s an ambitious, audacious piece of theatre-making.

As a lovingly constructed patchwork of sci-fi tropes – it’s a little bit Brazil, a little bit Total Recall, a little bit Tron, a lot 1984 – there’s also much here to enjoy but the piece feels less surefooted in narrative terms and the wobbly plot, involving rebel factions, mind-policing, and parents crossing over to the dark side, offers few surprises. The dialogue too – relayed by surtitle – is more than a little ripe and the piece’s purported exploration of issues surrounding surveillance and privacy is fairly simplistic.

But, in the end, this all feels secondary. Light is performed with choreographic and technical precision. It features a richness of gesture and a skilled use of mime familiar from the company’s previous show, the delicate and tender Translunar Paradise. Though the storytelling never quite matches the visuals, the show excels as eye-food – it’s beautiful to behold, imaginatively agile, and dazzling in more ways than one.

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Intricate, technically ambitious and visually rich exercise dystopian world-building