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Reviews Edinburgh Fringe 2017 Published 9 August 2017

Edinburgh Fringe Review: LANDS at Summerhall

Until 20th August 2017

Puzzling but enjoyable: Hannah Greenstreet on Antler’s bouncing tragi-comedy.

Hannah Greenstreet
LANDS at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

LANDS at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Sophie is bouncing on a mini-trampoline, eating a packet of ready-salted crisps. Bounce. Leah is attempting a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Bounce. She is documenting the process as she goes along, picking up each piece and describing it into a microphone. Bounce. From Leah’s witty descriptions, it sounds like an amazing jigsaw: there is a piece with four boys on a bus, maybe on a school trip, but they don’t look like they’re enjoying it; there is a piece with a dinosaur – can they really be in the same jigsaw? Buses, Leah observes, were generally not around in the prehistoric age.

Antler’s new devised show, LANDS, is a puzzling but enjoyable way to spend an hour. Bounce. There is not much more to it than this initial sketch of Leah and Sophie’s obsessions. Leah puzzles. Sophie keeps bouncing. Bounce. It is tiring to watch her. Bounce. How long is she going to stay on the trampoline? Bounce. Surely she can’t stay on that trampoline the entire show? Bounce. Sophie tells Leah she is stuck on the trampoline. Bounce. Bounce. Leah tries various methods to motivate, coax, or threaten Sophie off. Bounce. None of them work. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. We are not sure why Sophie can’t get off the trampoline. Bounce. She just can’t. Bounce.

Somehow, from these unlikely ingredients, there gradually emerges a musing on isolation and – bounce –  loneliness, even between people who seem close. Bounce. Sophie’s trampoline is a miniature island, as is Leah’s puzzle desk, which is bathed in a pool of light. The few moments in which the characters look like they might step off their islands – boing, bounce – and connect are – boing, step – precious. Sophie helps Leah with her puzzle. Leah explains her system to Sophie. Edges first. Then make piles grouped by category: animals, humans, objects. Some pieces are more difficult to categorise than others. They profoundly disagree about whether a balloon with a man’s face (or a balloon man) should go in the object or the human pile. Sophie goes back to the trampoline. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

We are never quite sure what Leah and Sophie’s relationship is. They could be lovers. Bounce. They could be friends. Bounce. They could be flatmates – bounce, bounce – or performers that happen to be in the same show. Bounce. They could be enemies, but – bounce – they can’t be strangers (you need to know someone to hurt them). Many of Leah and Sophie’s interactions with each other are entertaining. As performers, they clearly know each other well. It shows in the comic moments: Leah proffering the puzzle for Sophie to look at, only for it to disintegrate into a rain of – bounce, bounce, bounce – pieces across the stage; Sophie attempting to – bounce – drink a glass of water on the trampoline, droplets –bounce – spilling over her face, – bounce – chin, clothes and the floor.

There are also devastating – bounce bounce – moments. Leah lists all of the things she doesn’t care about, escalating into a tirade of indifference. She tells Sophie, ‘you don’t exist’. Thunk. All that is real to her is – bounce – herself and the puzzle. In LANDS, objects take on great significance as surrogates for intimacy. But dependence on – bounce – objects, like dependence on people, makes people vulnerable to being hurt. What I loved about LANDS is the sparseness of the text; it is not overwritten (unlike this review, bounce). Hurt is negotiated through objects, which are between the tangible and metaphorical realms, and people’s relations to them, – bounce – with them, and through them. Yet, as the text does not give many clues as to how to interpret it, this could be completely off.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Bounce.

Boing.

I have got so used to the creaking, rhythmic give of the trampoline fibres that when it stops it is a shock.

LANDS is on at Summerhall, Edinburgh, until 20th August 2017. Click here for more details.

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Hannah Greenstreet

Hannah is a writer, academic and theatre critic. In September 2017, she will start her AHRC-funded PhD on contemporary feminist theatre and realism at the University of Oxford. She is also a playwright and has worked with Soho Writers' Lab, the North Wall Arts Centre, and Menagerie Theatre Company.

Edinburgh Fringe Review: LANDS at Summerhall Show Info


Produced by Claire Gaydon and Hannah Smith

Directed by Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart

Cast includes Leah Brotherhead and Sophie Steer

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