Brighton Festival 2012
Video, installations and live performance combine to tell an intriguing story in two languages, a tale that happened in both France and Belgium, and the problems that occur when two borders, with national and personal constrains are crossed and the solutions that must be found.
Entering the Old Municipal Market is a haunting experience, amidst the dark, damp and cold space lie six contraptions that the audience are encouraged to wander around at their own pace before "The Confrontation".
The installations feel like the type that would be created if Wallace & Gromit gained their education on the set of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. There was a stark machine of grinding cogs that made a lovely espresso, and another where you were encouraged to put your head next to a grate and watch an onion on a conveyer belt move slowly towards obliterating spinning blades, spraying your nose with the teary smell.
Theatre that starts in the way, gives itself a high place to live up to. In the corner of the space there is a seating bank directed towards a couple of small screens. I’m not sure where the signal came from, but at some point the audience flocked towards the seating ready for the show to begin.
The performance was a beautifully constructed piece of audio visual theatre which told the story of a farm that exactly strides the border of Belgium and France, the piece itself being spoken in both French and Flemish.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story itself, as the clever and simple blossoming of this was extremely impressive. There is a simple beauty to the way the piece brings together all the elements involved, including the pre-show installations, and then made sure that the audience understood and embraced the relevance each of these had to the story as a whole.
Most of the show was actually performed on a number of screens that were moved on small trolleys around the space. The liveness of the show was encapsulated by various cues that the technical team appeared to have to follow. It was not until the last quarter of the performance that actors actually appeared on the stage, but their primary role was essentially still and interacting with the digital visuals.
Under many circumstances I would heavily object to a piece being performed almost entirely on TV screens, what is the point of theatre if it’s actors are not able to communicate and respond directly to it’s audience. However, I am happy to say that Land’s End has shifted my opinions as to what is possible within a theatre space using technological forms.
The story itself was quite simple, but the masterful story telling and understated use of the digital medium brought things together in an extremely exciting way. I highly recommend this show to anyone who has a chance to see it.