Hijinx alongside the italian company Teatro La Ribalta and in association with Frantic Assembly, streamed Into the Light as part of their first online festival, Ar-lein. Review by Katie Driscoll
In the novel age of coronavirus, streamed art has become the new norm. Here Hijinx presented a filmed dress rehearsal of their production of Into the Light. The group are a collective that produce intense performances about modern society and Into the light was produced in both Italian and English; all of its principal players being those rarely given a spotlight in society, or perhaps visibility online or in social media.
There is a wealth of art created about the downsides of our relationship to technology and reliance on it for our self worth, immersed in likes, selfies and tiny little red hearts, but here is a piece that is instead inviting us to ponder on the upsides of our phones: how they invite us into other worlds where we can be cherished, loved and appreciated, where the abstract yellow-amber-orange glow onstage is reminiscent of that soft and soothing glare of an incoming text message, not a warning symbol but a comforting presence.
However, there is also the use of theatrical devices – voice over and repetition to convey a sense of helplessness, ‘the moment you’re standing on stage infant of an audience, how does it make you feel?’: the performance mirrors the exact terror that having an overwhelmingly large amount of information at your fingertips can sometimes feel.
Phones, social media are our stages now: we dress ourselves like scenery and hope for adoration, simultaneously masking and giving away vulnerability in equal measure, willing others to look at us to cement and validate our own existence, and facing the self becomes an act of futility.
One emotional scene focuses on the power of dance as expression, how disability cannot impede on joy, even when certain things seem as if they’re only allowed for certain types of able-bodied people.
In this sense, Into the Light seems like a spill of emotion, the stage the blank page of a diary; it makes sense there is little to distract from the thoughts, emotions and the script. One actor is lit up, literally, from the inside, coming out to imaginary cheers, the inside of his brain and fantasies disgorging out on stage for us to witness and live in.
Into the Light skillfully weaves the tone between comedy and earnest emotion: punctuating the Rocky theme tune as a representation of social media content alongside the darker stuff.
However, in its abstract narrative, it sometimes loses your attention span, devolving into just people running out and jumping onstage, representations of the online selves we show off to the world: bigger, bolder, more confident.
Amidst some moments of lost clarity, however, there is a sweetness, when, during a fade to black, actors cavort, carrying and lifting one another in darkness, spotlights occasionally on them, carrying each other on their shoulders, a message of unity.
Stepping into the light: the stage light echoes the comforting glow of the instant connection that the phone promises to herald, stepping into another skin, another world.