Lights out for nightmarish mime tale of government corruption

Theatre Ad Infinitum - 'Light'. Picture: Alex Brenner

Theatre Ad Infinitum - 'Light'. Picture: Alex Brenner - Credit: Archant

Darkness takes centre stage in this dystopian show influenced by Snowden revelations, says Ben Lazarus.

Following sell-out shows at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the dystopian theatric spectacular Light will begin its UK tour at the Barbican as part of the London International Mime Festival.

The play, inspired by Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance, portrays an Orwellian state that monitors citizens’ thoughts through implants.

Director George Mann says he was inspired ten years ago to make a dystopian production after he had a “harrowing” nightmare about a totalitarian state. Despite being deeply troubled by it, he initially found it too difficult to translate into a show.

“However the idea stayed with me,” he says. “After Snowden there was a sense of urgency to do it, so I started planning how to put it on stage.”


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The play is told through mime, and revolves around the story of a young government agent who encounters an enigmatic figure from his shadowy past. It is set in total darkness and the stage is illuminated by an LED strip and torchlight.

“The lack of words has a power in itself. It felt like a non-verbal style would give the audience an intense experience.”

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The title of the play was inspired by the revelation that the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had the code name ‘light’ for its surveillance on metadata.

“I found that a very interesting metaphor,” Mann says. “It gave me an idea to use light, so to rehearsals I brought loads of types of lights and started experimenting.”

Mann – who was recently awarded the National Theatre’s 2015 Quercus Award – was particularly inspired by three dystopian novels: George Orwell’s 1984, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Russian novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.

The show was created with deaf actor Matty Gurney, who performed in it during its Edinburgh run and reprises his role for the UK tour.

The soundtrack is designed to add to the theme of torture and is scored by composer Chris Bartholomew.

“The total darkness and loud, immersive sound deals with the theme.

“It came from sensory deprivation torture, which leaves people very psychologically damaged. That’s why the play is how it is.”

The director hopes the play will make the audience think about the type of society we want to live in. “Science fiction makes us question where we are and where we are going,” he adds.

“What’s going on really disturbs me and I feel very bothered and helpless about it. And as an artist the only thing I can do is express these feelings in some way.”

Light runs from January 20-24 at the Barbican. Visit barbican.org.uk

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