Sunday 14 May 2017

The Gap In The Light @ New Diorama Theatre

The Gap In The Light @ New Diorama Theatre

"This show began as an investigation into our relationship with the things that scare us," says the programme for this new piece by Engineer Theatre Collective. We're told before the show starts that much of the first half will take place in total darkness. We're told the play is about fear and darkness will heighten our senses. The dark makes us feel vulnerable, makes our minds wander.

In reality, though, this is less exploration of fear and more let's throw the audience into darkness and see how they cope. For some, not very well.

In the first act we plummet into the oblivion of a cave with PhD student Hana and her guide Ethan. Together, they explore the darkness with head torches and clever physicality to suggest tiny crawl spaces, cracks and gaps through which to slither through. They eventually stumble upon a huge cavernous opening with an ancient secret that has deep psychological consequences for our plucky explorers. For the audience? It's a fun horror adventure that challenges our eyesight far more than our minds.

The secret to horror, though, is not to let the tension out. Turn on the lights and it all dissipates. That's what happens in the second act when we switch to the mundanity of an everyday relationship, playing out on a detailed, fully lit set. Hana has returned to London to live with husband Daniel, though she's still haunted by previous events. Without the cover of darkness, the play's flaws are all too clear: a soap opera relationship told through a script that lacks believability. A few jump scares may freak out some and there are hints of creepy atmosphere, but the play fails to make any serious points about the psychology of fear.

As a piece of schlocky horror, though, The Gap In The Light is a success. It's an enjoyable, if gimmicky, romp through the dark. But, like the expedition of the first act, it's a little too ambitious for its own good.


Watch: The Gap In The Light runs at the New Diorama Theatre until 27th May.

Photo: Alexander Nicolau