The Gap in the Light review at New Diorama Theatre, London – ‘swelteringly intense’

Scene from The Gap in the Light at New Diorama Theatre, London Scene from The Gap in the Light at New Diorama Theatre, London
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Engineer Theatre Collective’s The Gap in the Light is a superbly-crafted, swelteringly intense two hours of edge-of-your-seat psychological horror.

It combines the disorientating technological playfulness and self-exposing theatricality of Simon McBurney’s The Encounter with the stealthy psychological tension of The Woman in Black, then chucking in an environmental awareness and an evocative physicality that’s entirely its own.

In the ingeniously staged, utterly riveting first act, two cavers descend 500 feet into complete darkness, stumbling across something ancient and overpowering deep underneath the Mexican jungle.

Crawling and slithering around a bare stage, their faces lit only by headlamps and torches, Ellie Isherwood (as the panicky Hana) and Simon Lyshon (as experienced spelunker Ethan) create a chillingly real underground world, full of creeping dread and hair-raising jump-scares.

This something finds its way into everyday life in the more conventional second half, when Hana’s cosy North London life is derailed by nightmarish, recurring hallucinations. It’s part neatly understated domestic drama, part Stanley Kubrick psychological thriller, and entirely gripping. Both Isherwood and Archie Backhouse – as Hana’s loving boyfriend – supply absorbing, naturalistic performances.

But this show’s triumph belongs to its creative team: Dominic Kennedy’s soundscape of insistent drips and ominous echoes, and Oscar Wyatt’s low-fi lighting of precisely deployed strobes and torchlight, have been masterfully choreographed by co-directors Jesse Fox and George Evans to produce a uniquely unsettling theatrical experience.

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An ingeniously staged, swelteringly intense psychological thriller