It’s the City in the 1990s – a dank, gloomy, restless and lonely place to be, despite the teeming millions of people that populate the tube, the restaurants, the sidewalks. Define Choice’s new production of The Lights by Howard Korder immediately throws the audience into this world, using ‘The Spring’, a cold, vast warehouse in Vauxhall, as their venue of choice to stage this experience.
Aside from the superb acting and curiously innovative directorial choices, it is the space itself that provides the most intriguing element to this production
The play does not focus on any particular character or storyline; rather, The Lights presents a series of vignettes, some with recurring characters, others with new individuals, that ultimately portray the City as bleak, immovable, and unfriendly – just like its inhabitants. The homeless limp on the streets, the angry poke fights, the addicted seek gratification, and the rich blame the poor for their own greed and failures. All seek to take what is not theirs; all face the same reply, ‘next time’; and all have a deep set sadness, or madness, within, which is not only incredibly difficult to pin down, but very hard to watch once you do. Yet despite the gloom, and the mist of depression that permeates this environment, the playwright casts a ray of hope in his subtle plea to behold each individual as ‘a light’ within this world of alienation, and to respond and behave accordingly, perhaps amending the perpetual reply of ‘next time’ to an individual’s plea for help, to, ‘yes, okay, this time’.
Aside from the superb acting and curiously innovative directorial choices, it is the space itself that provides the most intriguing element to this production of The Lights. Levels are used to great effect, representing balconies, rooftops, and entrances to dimly-lit basement flats below. The shadows created by these levels are in themselves mesmerising, making the action feel immersive and haunting. Lighting, in-keeping with the themes of the play, may be at once dim, and subsequently blinding – may be immersive or used to pick out certain elements of the action. The audience sits on benches that are fashioned out of crates and cardboard, and tin cans, mesh, glass and dirty mattresses make up the rest of the seedy backdrop.
Despite the vastness of the space lending itself to slightly echoey acoustics – and a subsequent occasional loss of articulation from some cast members – and the fact that this is a play to be experienced and appreciated, not necessarily enjoyed, Define Choice’s production of The Lights will certainly leave you feeling breathless, subdued, inspired and frustrated, all at once. This is immersive, site-specific theatre at its best.
**** 4 stars
Runs until 30th October