An early disclaimer to this preview is that I believe Neon is best experienced with as little knowledge of the play’s plot and narrative as possible. All the numerous twists and turns of the intricately structured story were best experienced in this manner and for that reason, I will try to keep any mentions of the larger plot to a minimum in this preview.
Neon is a play about religion, energy and most importantly: relationships and Patrick Swain’s bold new script deals with fantastical themes whilst being grounded in a referential reality. Mentions to soft drinks and religions are often done so humorously and in a script that aims to tackle some thematically heavy material, I found the doses of comedy were sprinkled throughout excellently and never detracted from the drama occurring on stage. The play’s story is certainly a cerebral one, and a refreshing note was that the lack of blatant exposition or explanation assumes that the audience is giving their complete attention and Neon requests that its viewers are completely invested.
deals with fantastical themes whilst being grounded in a referential reality
Which is easy to do, when the play amasses an incredible ensemble of actors and actresses with glorious chemistry and whom bounce off each other brilliantly. While two characters are clearly the focus, perhaps some further depth added to some of the other supporting character’s motivations and arcs would have been appreciated. But this may cost the show’s lean hour and twenty-minute length which felt like the goldilocks of running times. Singling out only one performance would be a disservice to the rest of the cast, who all have their witty quips that dart across the stage and further inspection shows a level of nuance to each of their roles. One of the most intriguing parts is just how well dual relationships function within Neon. Familial, romantic, professional and mentor dynamics are all encapsulated within the play and it manages to imbue them with an appropriate amount of emotion and most importantly: believability. Neon’s best moments are how it portrays these relationships with genuine realism, done through a combination of script, performance and direction.
I was only able to experience one part of the play’s technical aspect which was of an auditory arresting dynamic of a soundscape where one could make out brief excerpts from biblical passages, hauntingly whispered across the stage through speakers. Director: Jasper Frost made a point of stating that many of the lighting, props and set were absent for this preview, but he needn’t worry if he thought that would impact my enjoyment of Neon. The ambition is palpable within the show and there are moments that will clearly reach their full potential being shown with all these factors present. The play by no means depends on these aspects but rather will be far more immersive due to them.
It would feel unfair to place an objective rating upon Neon, due to the obvious absence of technical and staging elements. But the passion of performances, strength of direction and poignant nature of the plot still provided an excellent experience for me. I can only imagine the profound impact of the play when all its ambitious aims are realised on stage, but I’m sure audiences will be thinking about the events that transpired in Neon, long after the curtains have closed.
Neon will be performed at 14:00 and 17:30 in RS3 on Monday 04 June.