Land Without Dreams
Gate Theatre Autumn 201
More a prose poem and
theme-and-variations than a conventional monologue play, Land Without
Dreams is an uneven mix of evocative communication, self-conscious
and self-congratulatory cleverness and opaque private symbolism. It
makes its points, but sometimes in spite of itself.
The credits list
displays a particularly linear sequential collaboration: 'created by'
the Copenhagen theatre company Fix&Foxy, written and directed by
Tue Biering, translated from the Danish by Sophie H. Smith, directed
in London by Lise Lauenblad, performed by Temi Wilkey.
The subject is
the future, and exhortations to be hopeful about it. The future may
not resemble any utopia we can imagine, but it will definitely not be
Above all, it will be
positive: 'In the future people
start believing in the future.'
The seventy-minute piece
is at its
strongest when the actress alone on the bare stage addresses this
point directly, as when she asserts that some of the people here in
this theatre audience will do great things – discover a vaccine,
master the violin – but that all will lead richer lives as a result
of listening to her.
A particularly effective
sequence has her
switching from the voice of the future to one from the past,
predicting wonders to come (man will walk on the moon, women will
vote), and the message is clear: knowing all those predictions came
true, we should have faith in her image of our own future.
mentioned, part of the play's mode is to acknowledge that it is a
play in a theatre with an audience, and the speaker repeatedly
describes what is happening as it happens – 'She looks out at the
audience' – or as she imagines it happening – 'One of you is
thinking “This is why I never go to the theatre”.'
grows old very quickly as the actress has to strain harder and harder
for the easy laughs.
Meanwhile, some of the
actions required very
specifically in the text and the playwright's stage directions seem
more meaningful to her than they ever are to us. The speaker
repeatedly stops, abruptly leaves the stage, and then returns, the
punctuating moments signifying less than was evidently intended.
one point the actress strips and covers herself in clay (suggesting a
common humanity?) and at another pours slime over herself and writhes
around on the floor (rebirth? metamorphosis?). But as my guesses
suggest, the symbolism is too private to be effective.
Wilkey holds the stage with authority and navigates the repeated
shifts in style, mode and tone more successfully than you might think
But even she can't make it all hang together, and Land Without Dreams remains a small collection of strong moments amid too much that doesn't quite work.
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Review - Land Without Dreams - Gate Theatre 2019