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BWW Review: LAND WITHOUT DREAMS, Gate Theatre

BWW Review: LAND WITHOUT DREAMS, Gate Theatre BWW Review: LAND WITHOUT DREAMS, Gate Theatre Sometimes theatre can go very wrong for a lot of different reasons. The audience are required to suspend their belief, take a leap of faith, and put their trust in the performers on stage. Some shows expect a lot from the people who watch them, some don't. Land Without Dreams demands a level of openness that it's never able to fulfill. The piece works well on paper. On stage, not so much. Besides making a bunch of promises that it doesn't keep, the piece is, regrettably, inconclusive and inconsequential.

The brief summary offered by the info material says that a woman walks on stage and says that she's from the future. And, in fact, that's what happens: a woman (the brilliant and fearless Temi Wilkey) says so multiple times, reiterating it for around 45 minutes before something else happens (no spoilers) and the public is left slightly confused (and perhaps a bit disgusted too if you're easily so). Lise Lauenblad directs this London run of the Danish play, as translated by Sophie H. Smith. Tue Biering wrote and directed its original incarnation, and one wonders if that production beared any resemblance to this one.

A non-existent pace accompanies the minimal-to-no narrative progression, which leads to a lot of words saying one thing and repeating it over and over in a prosaic structure that fails to be engaging. The self-referential nature it presents turns out to be too pretentious to convince the crowd that what they're seeing isn't fiction. "Everyone thinks that this is theatre" The Woman says at the start after she sets off to try too hard to persuade her listeners that it is not. But it is, and not even the static house lights, no fourth wall, and directly provocative qualities of its ending succeed in making it any different.

The aim of experimental theatre company Fix&Foxy isn't too clear here. The piece is ideologically sound and probably noble in its intentions, but too feeble to hold the weight of the concepts it strives to convey. There's also a feeling that the medium of the stage play might not be the best one to tell the majority of this story, with only the ending truly requiring a visual address. The communal nature of the theatrical experience plays into it, according to the character, but, once again, it's just words.

It's a shame that only the final scene is a genuinely compelling metaphor. That's the only moment when Biering/Smith's writing and Lauenblad's direction come together and Wilkey is finally able to introduce the first and only strong point of the play. Unfortunately, it doesn't save what essentially is a weak and overly pompous play.

Land Without Dreams runs at the Gate Theatre until 7 December.

Image courtesy of Cameron Slater


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