Review: This Is The Land, VAULT Festival

You don’t get many non-narrative meditations so This Is The Land has that going for it

“They’re just waiting…”

Most shows at the VAULT Festival this year have opted against printed programmes and gone for QR codes, a great sustainable choice. Ironically for a show about our shifting relationship with the land, This Is The Land has an information sheet on every seat – you soon realise why RedRoom Theatre has gone for this. Devised as a non-narrative, multidisciplinary meditation on that subject, it hews a lot closer to live art than theatre.

It is undoubtedly a challengingly ephemeral work, abstruse in its unfolding, but if released from the expectations of conventional theatre, it possesses its own unique energy. Impressionistic and emotive, sweeping contemporary movement allies with multi-tracked soundscapes, hauntingly looped vocals mesh with poetic musings, a charged atmosphere is cultivated and we’re left to take from it what we wish.

Directed by Mary Steadman and devised in creative collaboration with Xavier De Santos, Leeza Jessie, Alice Barton, Sofia Vélez, and Samuel De La Torre, plus John Baggott’s musical contributions, the programme notes talk of a seasonal cycle throughout the show, its five figures embodying the Celtic spirit of the Trickster and as polyphonic aural collages are constructed in front us and fleeting moments of whirling physicality rush by, there are moments of true grace.

At the same time, the devised nature of This Is The Land does mean that that polyphony can sometimes lean towards disjointed dissonance. As it leans over the hour, feelings of randomness do start to creep in as you wonder if a bit more structure might work as opposed to a story about nibbly-nobbly ice-cream but as this is a show in which someone is as likely to produce a potato from their pocket as a piece of paper, maybe you just gotta roll with the random. Definitely not for everyone but a bold bit of programming for the endlessly surprising VAULT Festival.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
This Is The Land is booking at VAULT Festival until 19th February

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