"One for all city dwellers"
by Peter Carrington for remotegoat on 20/10/11

The audience arrives into a warehouse full of strangers. The seats are pallets and no stage is obvious so almost anyone in the space could be part of the show. Everyone retreats into themselves, reading the newspaper/programme and not making eye contact as if on the bus or tube. This is the initial atmosphere of The Lights; a journey through the soul of a city. The action unfolds around the audience, conjuring the city before them through a day with shop assistant Lillian and her boyfriend Frederic. The Lights is a morality tale for all city-dwellers and this is a great space to see it in.

The diverse skill of the cast is one of the real strengths of this production. Frankie Haynes as the vulnerable Lillian is the heart of the play - whose horror at the morality of the city around her is conveyed with meek charm and echoed by the audience. Lillian's experience is framed by her scrimmaging boyfriend Fred, played with irresponsible pride by Brendan Murphy, her colleague Rose (Catherine Nix Collins) and by Erenhart (Paul Ham). Rose seems drunk on her selfishness but Nix Collins makes her likeable despite this. Erenhart is like a shadow of Lillian, his embrace of the twisted morals of the city is subtly played by Peter Ham. The supporting cast are so good at differentiating their characters that it is hard to believe there are so few of them. Yet each have a moment of poignancy, from Graham Dickson as the vagrant wanting to change to Peter Halpin as the defeated Bill, clinging to a hope, to Akpore Uzoh as Scab, whose life is the city. Lauren Reed turns characters over like cards and Tom Shepherd spins the audience from pity to fear in a few scenes. There is not a weak performance there and each is memorable.

Appropriately enough, the lighting design by Miguel Vicente is fantastic as it focuses the view and the mind; bringing intimacy to the large space. What appeared as very sparse surroundings initially are flawlessly transformed into towers, tube trains and abandoned buildings.

The site-specific direction by Hamish MacDougall makes dynamic use of the space; busy streets, crowded red carpets and back alleys are all brought to life within the production. This is perfect for the play as it demands this kind of attention to detail. The only flaw in the warehouse space is the echoing sound, but for the most part this is not a problem.

The Lights speaks to all who have lived in a city and this review could be filled with all the many nuances and morals within the play (for there are many and many that spoke to those who have faced similar difficulties), but far better that you experience them yourself. Attention should however be drawn to two messages significant to this production. The first is that the titular 'Lights' of the play are both the lights that one can see within the city and the lives of the audience. Sitting within that warehouse one can see the city (and city life) reflected amongst the scenes and that is an important thing to contemplate. The second is that when The Man in the Chair (Gwilym Lloyd) outside Fred's apartment stops Lillian and says how he finds it amazing that he can manage to live on what others throw away he speaks of the production itself. The warehouse is about to be destroyed, the set and seats are all perfectly functional but thrown away or borrowed yet here they bring to life an entire city and show that it is not only things that are thrown away but lives, people and compassion. A worthwhile experience to see for all city-dwellers.

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