As you enter the studio theatre at the Bush you feel as if the play has already started without you. Leah sits on the left excitedly describing the jigsaw puzzle she is working on piece by piece, whilst Sophie bounces on a trampoline on your right. They jokingly interact with each other and us as we shuffle in. This is good, this seems fun, this seems light.
And a lot of it is. The comedic chemistry between Sophie and Leah is palpable, with their facial expressions and off script improvisational style continuously delivering. I can’t remember the last time I stifled so much laughter during a production. These two would be just as hilarious without the absurd situation they put themselves in.
The absurdity of Sophie’s continuous bouncing and Leah’s obsessive puzzle building, although comical, play into the more serious tones of the piece. There isn’t one defining message as its abstract form means there’s so many different interpretations, that can be taken from Lands. This to me is a relief, as the current trend appears to impose a very specific message to the audience. Fairly so as there is so much to respond to in today’s climate, but it was refreshing to see a more obscure take on the world.
At times you are made to feel swathes of empathy for Sophie, as she cannot bring herself to come off the trampoline and struggles to communicate her problem with the seemingly apathetic Leah. At others, you join in Leah’s frustration at her ultimately futile attempts to help Sophie, who is so addicted to her own miserable situation. The trampoline stands in for a myriad of different issues a person can have, as to the outsider it appears trivial, and an easily solved problem, Sophie’s predicament is much larger than its outside appearance. Whatever the issues, be it addiction, mental health, or some other un-dealt with reoccurring problem; through these childlike props Lands articulates the problem of communication, and relation that everyone can relate too.
Sophie’s issues are quite clearly characterised through her compulsive bouncing, which you are constantly reminded of with each squeaky landing. It is a noise which at first is consigned to your audial peripheries, but as soon as the subject is broached, becomes a constant rhythmic reminder of her personal issue. The sort of issue, that you have been made aware of, it is uncertain how you ever ignored it. Whereas Leah’s issues, whatever they may be, are much more subtly shown in her need to return to the jigsaw task at hand.
The pieces’ abstract nature is what made it simultaneously so relatable, funny and stirring. So when Leah lists off specific issues in the world today, this felt unnecessary. It took the piece out of the surreal, which is what made it feel so real. It was an attempt to ground the piece which didn’t feel necessary, as the piece’s gravity was already clearly at work.
Other than that, it succeeded in its projection. You can read so many varying relationship issues into the piece, and the scripts refusal to specify is what gives Lands it’s commonality. It’s a piece about our inability to communicate our issues with one another, whatever those may be. Lands works on multiple levels, from the intricate details of the miniscule jigsaw pieces to the height of Sophie’s trampoline bounces.
Words, Billie Walker @queen.feta
Images, Helen Murray