Hijinx have showed us in the past, more than one time, that they not only have the ability to produce witty, articulate, incisive works; they have also showed us that they are comfortable in exploring a variety of voices and tones, from the unrepentantly comedic to the touching and reflective (and, of course, at times both). Here they partner up with Italian association Teatro La Ribalta, which also focuses on working with actors and performers with disabilities, to deliver a visually impressive, highly atmospheric work that dips its toes into avant-garde and is strongly meta-theatrical in nature.
If you are expecting your average theatre show with well-defined characters and a plot, be aware of this: Into the Light demands much more from its audience. It is an exploration of its performers and their attitude to work on stage, and of the concept of performance itself, with its many ramifications. There is very little actually spoken on stage: most of the talking is done by interview-style voiceovers with the performers, exploring their feelings and their hopes, the way that doing work on stage impacts their vision of themselves and their relationship with others, their thoughts around theatre and their own place on the stage and in society, the way others perceive them when they are performing and when they are not. Most of the actual communication, though, is done through the means of physical movement, and that is where the real magic of this show happens. It is hard to convey an accurate image of the many vignettes, some of them humorous, other whimsical, some brimming with happiness and others exposing insecurities, that make up this production, but all performers have tuned their physical movement on stage very finely, and are equally confident in generating a sense of presence and in the way they interact with each other on the physical level. The stage setting is minimalist but impactful, with a clever and atmospheric use of neon lights. Here is where Into the Light truly earns its very apt title: throughout the sixty-five minutes of its duration, this production endlessly plays a game with what is seen, what is not seen, and what is only glimpsed; what stands fully in the light, what is only illuminated for a moment, and what remains forever just outside the range of the visible.
While the deliberately disjointed nature of the various vignettes may be jarring at first, as the show proceeds one gets lost in the flow, and learns to just follow a different language to what most audiences might be used to, which is intensely physical and visual, and supported by a soundtrack that is cleverly chosen and perfectly timed. A subtle sense of humour is present throughout and, even when it is not immediately evident, is fundamental: a production like this cannot ever afford to be too uncompromisingly serious. With its many touching moments, one or two of which are extremely intense, Into the Light leaves its audience with an uplifting, optimistic feeling. These are highly professional, confident performers, who have – rightly so – no interest nor need to elicit pity or compassion. Their aim is instead to step, as the title suggests, right into the spotlight, and put the audience face to face with the sheer fact of their presence, which is intensely physical, not just conceptual. It is a bold statement that decided to be daring in its realisation and delivery and most certainly succeded in its intent. As the initial puzzlement of the audience dissolves and the show picks up momentum, it is easy to see how great its impact can potentially be in those who see it.
Into the Light is a unique creature, in equal parts theatre, dance, and performance art. As the discourse that started taking shape last year around accessibility in theatre and the arts will hopefully continue, grow, and branch out in 2019, and come more and more to the forefront of our consciousness, this production is a loud and powerful voice that will be very hard to ignore moving forward.