Gate Theatre, London – until 7 December 2019
Land Without Dreams at the Gate Theatre is a surreal, existential meta ‘drama’ created by Danish company Fix & Foxy. I use ‘drama’ because it isn’t a story in the traditional sense, rather it is a solo performance (by Temi Wilkey) about the future and the power of the individual. Kind of.
She is both narrator and a character in the piece and tells us she’s from the future. The lights of the auditorium stay up as she addresses the audience directly, imagining who we are and what our expectations and experience of theatre is.
So, for example, she decides there is a couple on a date, telling us what is going through their minds, how the date is going and their impressions of the play. It is meta and ironic as she tells us what we are thinking about the play: ‘When is the play actually starting?’ and later ‘This is why I never go to the theatre’ etc.
When she isn’t delving into our minds and ‘revealing’ our thoughts she addresses our fears of the future in a way that both allays and alarms. She also talks about the individual and whether one person – or a play — can make a difference. While her tone is light, the dialogue often hopeful there are signs and hints that all is not right. She has spells where she itches and her skins flakes as if having a reaction to something.
It is about belief, about the mindset that if you think it will be alright, it will be? Wilkey repeatedly leaves the stage and returns and on one exit I genuinely thought the conclusion had been reached. I even put my pen and notepad away. Not a natural ending
But what felt like a natural conclusion wasn’t, there were another five minutes or so of what was frustratingly odd. (Spoiler alert) It involved nudity and a large bucket of what looked like runny, smooth peanut butter being applied as ‘dressing’. Then when that bucket was empty, it was replaced with another of clear gluey, slime. I’m afraid my eyes rolled at that point.
While it actually finishes on a nice coup de theatre and I loved the cheekiness of its approach, it feels dense at times and doesn’t always hold the attention.
Land Without Dreams has much in it that is thought-provoking and entertaining and there were bits I very much enjoyed but it is not the sum of all its parts which is a shame.
Sometimes it feels quirky for quirky sake rather than with any real agenda.
It is 60 minutes long without an interval and I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
You can see it at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill until 7 December.
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