Closed Lands, Vaults Festival

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Walls are suddenly everywhere. In a world that once seemed to be opening up, a vicious backlash has seen us erecting more and more barriers between people – real and psychological. Closed Lands examines the walls we build and the natural barriers we rely on to enforce separation. It looks at the effects that walls coming down (the piece starts with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall) and walls going up (there is a long segment on Trump’s wall on which more later).

The piece is more performance art than play. It doesn’t have a linear journey – in that it matches the journey of the refugees and migrants it depicts taking torturous routes insecure in their welcome at their destination. It is also a very busy piece with all Five actors on stage and kinetic at all times. This give a sense of the frantic energy of the cast, but can make it hard to focus as the stories are told.

A key weakness was the overlong focus on the US/Mexico border. I felt this let our own failings off too lightly. It is very easy to hate Trump, but how do we better confront not just the horrors of what our own government’s do to migrants, but also what our own creature comforts do too. Where, for example,  is the understanding about why the cheap cardigan I pulled around my shoulders as I watched the show was actually part of the problem?

Quibbles aside, this is a thought provoking and at times moving piece delivered with heart, irony and joie de vivre, from Catherina Conte’s genuinely funny impressions of Trump and George W Bush to Becka McFadden’s chilling and ironic narrator explaining in deadpan what Concertina wire is the show’s humour rescues it from the darkness of it’s subject matter. The show’s subject matter rescues it from flippancy.

Closed Lands is an interesting if currently underdeveloped piece of work. It’s use of multimedia works well and evokes memory as well as building fresh understanding and context. I have no doubt that there is much more to do with this piece, but from this excellent start I look forward to a journey I hope has no barriers.

Closed Lands is on at the Vault Festival until 8 March https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/closed-lands/ Tickets from £13

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