A claustrophobic piece of physical theatre, Kneehigh‘s The Neon Shadow captures an incarcerating image of isolation. Imprisoned in his own home (with the padlock, curiously, on the inside of his bedroom door), the protagonist takes to the internet to connect with the outside world. Though he believes he has found someone special, technology starts to consume him more than he could possibly have imagined.
Between the eerily clean setting and the way Tom Jackson Greaves convulses and floats around the room, this is a mind-warping experience. The film medium gives Kneehigh the chance to experiment with visual tricks and cues that would otherwise be inaccessible. They don’t go too overboard, but what they achieve nonetheless looks spectacular. As the creepy, clockwork soundtrack unwinds – accompanied by a theremin and synth – a heavy atmosphere of dystopian dread comes to fruition. Greaves is a sight to behold, his all-white attire and wicked smile at times evoking A Clockwork Orange’s Alex, but with a spiralling loss of control and willpower.
As he slides further into a pit of despair, The Boy (as Greaves’ character is credited) is guilty of some perhaps cliche signposts of loneliness – drawing smiley faces on window condensation is more befitting of a child in the back of a car than a man forced to hold up indoors. But these are rare exceptions. On the whole, Greaves commits himself with such energy and electricity that he captures a paling image of isolation. The internet, represented by the form of a Joker-style suited clown, takes on an incredibly insidious presence in his life, at one point lying underneath his bed like a full-on bogeyman. What the show manages to do so well is conjure an impressive level of depth for such a short show without sacrificing its unique sense of style.
The Neon Shadow manages to pull a rabbit out of a hat; with very little to work with, the end result is a show that plays out like a technophobic nightmare that teases its main character with the promises of sweet human connection. Some details get lost in the melee, not garnering the attention they deserve (a fleeting reference to Black Lives Matter being one); on the whole, however, Kneehigh has treated us to a gripping advent of theatre that plays on the paranoia of spending so much time with your own company.
The Neon Shadow is available to watch on YouTube here.