Review: The Gap In The Light
Image: Engineer Theatre Collective
Conceived and created by Engineer Theatre Collective:
George Evans, Jesse Fox, Simon Lyshon, Beatrice Scirocchi & Emily Thommes
Zoe Hunter - Co-writer
Archie Backhouse - daniel
Ellie Isherwood - Hana
Simon Lyshon - Ethan
A noise in the night, pulling you out of sleep.
Your eyes snap open - you're suddenly hot.
Was the sound in a dream or in the house? The front gate? The cat next door? The pipes?
Relieved, you pull back the covers.
Tread softly to the bathroom, the carpet comfortable and familiar.
Meet your tired eyes in the mirror and enjoy that there's still four hours before your alarm goes off and it's morning.
Turn the tap. Fill the glass. Have a drink. Look up.
In the mirror, behind you there's a shape in the dark.
Engineer explore what it is to be afraid.
Fear inhabits the corners of our lives, perhaps moreso now than ever.
How do we face, comprehend and endure it?
How far can we, or should we, pull the things that scare us into the light?
Engineer Theatre Collective are a group of devisers dedicated to creating visually striking, ensemble-led theatre.
Broadly influenced by a Lecoq-based training, they have a shared language which relies upon close collaboration with designers and specialists relevant to the field they are exploring.
They employ a rigorous attitude to rehearsal and development and seek to explore new and challenging story telling forms, using physicality, space and sound to fire an audience’s engagement.
I don't think I've ever been afraid watching a thriller or horror production in the theatre.
Of course, there have been times when I've been shocked into a nervous jump from an unexpected, eerie sound or scream, or a sudden change of lighting during a production or two.
However, experiencing real terror or fear through a theatrical performance has never actually come my way.
Now that may just be down to my personality or to the fact that, if you know someone is out to scare you, you are forewarned and forearmed.
In this original and highly complex devised piece from Engineer Theatre Collective, the aim is not so much to scare the daylights out of the audience, but to allow them to consider what fear is, or might be, and how we react to it.
Though much of the first half of the play is performed in total or near-total darkness, the detailed introduction is both reassuring and comforting.
The story revolves around Ellie Isherwood's Hana, a post-graduate student who suspects an enormous sink hole in the Mexican jungle might be harbouring artefacts from an ancient civilisation.
So she enlists the offices of an experienced caver-cum-explorer called Ethan (played by Simon Lyshon) to undertake a preliminary foray into the passageways and caves which spread-out from the yawning, cavernous hole.
They are amply equipped and have emergency plans for their 4-day stay underground, but it's not long before the pair find strange piles of ancient bones lurking in the dense blackness - and something less tangible besides.
This has a profoundly strange effect on Ethan which leads to a dramatic termination of the underground adventure.
The second half takes us forward in time to find Hana back at home in London with her spouse and expecting a baby, but still having counselling after her expedition.
Navigating the acting space in almost total darkness is no mean feat for the two actors here, especially considering they have ropes and other equipment to manipulate.
But the sequence is performed with flawlessly meticulous precision which, along with a stunning soundscape from Dominic Kennedy and hugely effective lighting from Oscar Wyatt, provides a tense, edgy, wholly riveting and convincing experience.
The second half contrasts markedly with preceding events and, on one level at least, simply can't compete because it's less visually and dramatically arresting.
But what it does do effectively is to replant fear within the context of modern city living.
The Gap In The Light didn't bring me any closer to experiencing theatrical terror, but it did induce a sense of fear - during the blackout scenes I felt distinctly nervous about the possibility of something or someone touching me, even though I knew it was unlikely to be the actors, or any member of the audience for that matter.
If anything, that is what the play is about - that deep in our DNA there is an in-built, irresistible mechanism to tune-in to fear, especially in an unusual situation, and even when the rational, educated side of our brains is desperately trying to explain it away.
Engineer Theatre Collective set themselves a tall order with this technically demanding and intricate piece of theatre.
But that's the hallmark of this creatively ambitious and highly-skilled company who relish the challenge of exploring stimulating issues in unique ways.
And they certainly don't disappoint here with a work that is intellectually and emotionally demanding as well as visually striking.
The Stage - Fergus Morgan
"Engineer Theatre Collective's The Gap in the Light is a superbly-crafted, swelteringly intense two hours of edge-of-your-seat psychological horror".
Theatrefullstop - Carolin Kopplin
"If the remaining part of the production had lived up to the standard of the first half, this would be a truly outstanding show. However, the remainder of the show lacks cohesion ...".
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