Lands @ Bush Theatre [response/review]

You know when there’s a song you just can’t get out of your head?
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.
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I think it’s called an ear worm.
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Yeah.
My ear worm today has been a high-pitched bouncing noise from a trampoline. The little ones you get at the gym. It kind of sounds like one the springs could be broken but I wouldn’t know, I’m not a trampoline expert.

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Bush Theatre Associate Artist’s Antler present ‘Lands’, a play about a relationship with stilted communication, and (maybe) mental health.

The play Sophie Steer and Leah Brotherhead in this ambiguous space where they could be anywhere, at any time. They could be friends, they could be lovers. All we know is Sophie won’t stop bouncing on a trampoline (legs of steel!!), and Leah is besotted with her 1000-piece puzzles, documenting each piece and what it could be as it goes along.

The situation is comical at first, thanks to Sophie’s facial expressions at the audience, Leah’s matter-of-fact way of stating things, and a brilliant dance. But as the play unfolds, we begin to witness Leah’s frustrations at Sophie being ‘stuck’ on a trampoline. It’s a delicately written and performed script which quietly presents the idea of a communication breakdown. The majority of the script is in fact improvisations and task-based performances, and both performers keep themselves composed and engaged with their audience despite playing with so many things at once – bouncing, describing puzzles, dances, and keeping in time with each other.

Despite the games and absurdity of the premise, my heart begins to break as I realise these are just distractions, games to pass the time whilst the elephant in the room is ignored; the word ‘trampoline’ is never used – it’s always “this” or “thing”. Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment is when Sophie walks back to her trampoline (spoiler?) when Leah becomes fixated on her puzzles again. That moment symbolises, for me anyway, people dropping off when you need them most. When people think that you’re ‘okay’ again, and can just carry on as you were.

It can get irritating watching  – and perhaps it is five or ten minutes too long – because you just want what’s best for these people, but it almost feels right that that’s the way it is. You’re just waiting, willing for the pair to slot together and communicate in the same way, but they keep missing each other by inches, misjudging phrases or when to push further. There’s a lull in the action but Woodcock-Stewart’s direction enables the performance to suddenly ascend a few notches and hit you square in your gut.

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Leah’s ‘I don’t care’ speech is one of my favourite parts of the show. In part it’s funny – like, yeah, I don’t care about your wart or zit or yoga class, do I? – but it’s timing in the show teeters on the edge of frustrating. In a time when we seem to care the most and the least, the speech just encapsulates it all. We show off our care: our self-care routines, our prayer emojis, changing our profile picture periodically based on recent events. But when it comes to the people closest to us, do we care as much as we pretend to?

//

Lands is
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Well it’s the second time I’ve seen it, actually.
Hit my gut in 2017, too.
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It’s an absurd, intelligent look at communication. Often saying a lot without saying much at all.
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