Gate Theatre Autumn 2019
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 a dystopia.
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
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.
As I've 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
The device grows old very
quickly as the actress has to strain harder and harder for the easy
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.
At 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.
Performer Temi Wilkey holds
the stage with authority and navigates the repeated shifts in style, mode
and tone more successfully than you might think possible.
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