Tight, intense, fluid: poetry in motion. More Light is a beautiful journey into the cloistered world of living art – courtesans of the emperor. Sealed within their emperor’s tomb and ignorant of anything outside their lives as givers of pleasure – not even having uttered a word to anyone else – the courtesans begin to recreate their twisted world view within the confines of their subterranean home. Trapped more by their own obliviousness than by physical boundaries, More Light explores the preference to stick to the safety of the closed over the uncertainty of the unknown.
Form imitates content, the story told through stark verse and precise physicality. Direction and performance complement each other, creating striking imagery that encapsulates the characters’ existence as breathing works of art. In delivery, Akaina Ghosh as the titular More Light excels, evoking a gorgeous power from the verse. Tasmin Swanson also gives a stellar performance as the ironically named Pure Joy in her depiction of fear and anxiety.
Adding to the poetic atmosphere was a charming, beautiful animation – narrated by Ghosh – describing the construction of the emperor’s tomb to kick off the show. I loved this touch: contextually and emotively I felt engaged with the story before it had even begun. I would have liked to see more stylistic touches in this vein. One short scene performed in total darkness, with only small lamps lighting the way, was crying out for a physical sequence to reinforce the art-focused universe of the story.
With stylisation in mind, there could have been greater reconciliation between naturalism and style – I was not always convinced as to why some scenes were more stylised than others. This could be in part due to a lack of consistent strength in the ensemble. It was evident that some performers had a much clearer idea of what they were going for than others, causing an occasionally jarring lack of unity. As a final nit-pick, some extremely low budget props had a tendency to spoil the illusion. Yes, we don’t have that many props knocking about, but certain aspects such as the picking up of a severed arm did not need to be staged. Sometimes it’s preferable to leave an effect out entirely if it detracts rather than enhances.
It’s always welcome to see experimentation and originality, and More Light succeeds in its efforts. Flawed on occasion, yes, but the vision and creativity of the show shine through like a light in the darkness.