Hijinx Theatre and Teatro la Ribalta’s Into the Light explores the bittersweet pull of the spotlight through bold physical theatre. In the era of Social Media and loneliness, with its influencers and the value of Likes and Re-Tweets, the need for validation can feel greater than ever. Why do we desire to be seen and accepted? What does it mean to be heard and understood?
An international collaboration, Into the Light showcases nine talented performers with and without learning disabilities from Wales, Italy and Spain — Andrew Tadd, Helliot Baeza, Justin Melluish, Laura Tilley, Marega Palser, Matteo Celiento, Morgan Thomas, Raul Marquez and Rocco Ventura. Each performer is thrust into and out of the spotlight by the hands of the other performers. We hear their voices, discover their dreams and passions through clips of interviews with the cast as they take their moment at centre stage. Such as a moment when Laura Tilley enacts an award-winning superstar, posing for an imaginary paparazzi while talking about the elation performing makes her feel through an interview clip.
Each performer brings their individual talent and perspective to form a collective energy — an energy that is emotive and contagious. There is a clear sense of community and connection between the performers, and while they may be multi-lingual, they have one dominant language in common; the language of movement.
Directed by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and Krista Vuori, the performance is simple yet layered with meaning. Music by Ian Barnard includes many known-and-loved songs which successfully alter the pace and drive the performance forward. All of which is dramatised by Andy Purves’ effective lighting; symbolic neon frames that seem to represent the thin veil between light and darkness are incorporated into the movements of the performance creating beautiful and surreal imagery. Performers fight for their way into the spotlight through the frames, only to be dragged back into the darkness by the hands of others. What stood out the most through the tender and intimate choreography was the importance of touch, the beauty of human connection and the ways in which it is genderless.
Into the Light considers both the light and dark sides of fame. Performers relish in the light, but are also frozen by it. In a notable moment two performers battle with each other’s bodies and over each other’s shoulders for the glimmer of a mobile phone and fame on Social Media. Its inclusivity and emphasis on the voices of the performers that are learning disabled is important for the representation of neurodivergent and learning disabled performers. Given that inclusivity is at the heart of the production, it does feel like there is a voice missing; the voice of a learning disabled or neurodivergent person of colour. The diverse range of perspectives that are considered so thoughtfully would have been strengthened by the inclusion of a performer of colour.
Into the Light is an emotive, heart-warming experience. Playful with light, shadow and voice it explores performance as a transformative experience and suggests that when performing we are our truest self. It is empowering for the performers, as the show is shaped around them, and they clearly love every second of it. We all deserve to be seen and to shine in the light, but the spotlight can be lonely, it is better when shared with others.
Tour details for Into the Light can be found on the Hijinx website.