This is a story about madness and fantasy, set mainly in an asylum. The theme of insanity opens up limitless possibilities for artists, and The Light Box shows just how much is possible in the exploration of our subconscious minds. Natalia Savvides’ script alternates between reality and fantasy, but provides narrative threads that allow for logical readings of the play. Her characters are colourful and fascinating. While their stories are outlandish, they are grounded in humanity, which allows us to connect and empathise.
Director James Dalton relishes in the opportunity presented by a fantastical script, and takes flight with wondrous imagery and some of the most unhinged characterisations one is likely to see. The design elements are terrific. Sound, lighting, costumes and set are transportative, and entirely mesmerising. The production bears the aesthetic of an avant garde installation but is undoubtedly theatrical in its approach. The care taken to utilise all the potentialities of an empty space is impressive, and breathtaking.
Hannah Barlow plays a young patient Ethel, and brings to the role a beautiful fragility, but shocks us with bursts of great strength at several points. She looks like a meek wallflower but delivers high octane drama at the right moments. Stephanie King has impressive range and her performance is multi-faceted, with her comedic scenes leaving a very lasting impression. Dean Mason creates two solid characters, both intriguing and sensitive. He creates a good counterpoint to the frequently rambunctious activity on stage. Tom Christophersen plays three memorable characters, switching comfortably between several modes of performance; naturalistic, surreal, and camp. His “Man Made of Spoons” character is spectacularly funny, while maintaining a frightening aura of morbidity.
At the core of The Light Box lies an interesting story and this production tells it lovingly. More significantly, it is a feast for the senses that provides an experience only small theatres can, immersing its audience in a meticulously constructed space and speaking to it in much more than rational cerebral terms. It is theatre that goes beyond words. It is something a lot like magic.