The stamina, wit and sheer emotional energy needed to create and perform this piece of art is astounding. And this isn’t even considering the endurance Sophie Steer, one part of the two-piece puzzle, displays when jumping up and down on a trampoline for 80 minutes. However, the star of this show is undeniably Leah Brotherhead. She displays an innate ability to show a level of extreme and raw emotion without coming across clichéd or melodramatic. This isn’t to say Sophie doesn’t pull her own weight. In fact, it is the power imbalance that drifts between the hands of the girls that creates such a successful vitality throughout the play. It is the fundamental unmaking of the relationship.
Lands begins with a dutiful Leah sitting at her puzzle desk and relaying a more than detailed explanation of what each picture consists of. This is not only laugh out loud funny but lays crucial groundwork for the empathy which the audience, as a unit, builds up throughout the performance. We become attached to the puzzles and are therefore almost as distraught as Leah when they are mercilessly destroyed. She is a dedicated, if not fixated, creative. In contrast, Sophie is seen unpeeling an orange and muttering to herself and the audience, which receives deadly dagger glances from Leah. She is attached to the trampoline on which she is endlessly bouncing.
The trampoline is the focal point for the whole production. It creates and fuels the anger both Leah and Sophie feel toward each other, and most likely themselves. It becomes the third partner. Acting as a symbol for addiction, a self-centered nature or infidelity, take your pick as I believe almost any projection of the multitude of human problems we all have will work perfectly in place of the prop, it springboards the play, and the puzzles, into all their problems.
Two-man plays are made or broken by the actors. Too many times are great words ruined by an uncomfortable or simply unnatural narrator. This was not the case with Lands. I would have listened to anything that came out of Leah’s mouth and believed it. She delivers a heart wrenching monologue, rejecting any sense of care about any single cause of worry in the world. Speaking directly to the audience we all are picked out and cast aside. She is caught between the Sophie’s love for her and the love she holds for herself and her addiction, her inability, or perhaps refusal, to give up the trampoline.
The undeniable chemistry which rests comfortably between Leah and Sophie, as friends or lovers (I’ll let you decide), finds no real relief. As their jesting slowly, and then all at once, crosses the thin line between love and hate, the light is literally extinguished on their relationship, and perhaps, on our own belief in love. Lands leaves much for our hearts to ponder, including a necessary recognition of creator Jaz Woodcock-Stewart for bringing such an unlikely concept into such successful fruition.
Lands is playing Bush Theatre until December. For more information and tickets, click here.