Review: Lands (Bush Theatre)

Bush associate company Antler brings its piece to London

© Helen Murray

Leah Brotherhead is sat down making a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, describing what's on every tile as she picks them up. Sophie Steer is bouncing on a mini trampoline. Brotherhead stops making her puzzle, Steer keeps on bouncing. She can't stop bouncing. She can't remember the last time she wasn't bouncing.

Lands, produced by Bush Theatre associate company Antler, is an amusingly unconventional piece. Created by Brotherhead, Steer and director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, the two-hander seems to be about everything and anything from intoxication (is the trampoline a symbol of addiction, with Steer "unable to get off it"?), friendship, loneliness, despondency, desensitisation to millennial anxiety. Is it a play about coping? About forgiving the quirks and habits of others? As Brotherhead grows increasingly frustrated with Steer's bounce-fest, the pair's seemingly docile and quaint friendship disintegrates leaving a nasty taste and a garish brutality.

There are some impressive performances on show here. Steer, fresh off the back of a tour-de-force in Breach Theatre's It's True, It's True, It's True, delivers a performance full of self-consciousness and suppressed embarrassment, initially reluctant to confess that she's stuck on the mini-trampoline. Considering she's doing all of this while bouncing up and down is even more of a feat.

Brotherhead has the difficult challenge of having to share the stage with a constantly moving counter-part and manages to turn stillness into an art form. She transmits ounces of resentment with a silent stare as she watches Steer stuck in her springing scenario.

Woodcock-Stewart handles the transition from irritation to all-out aggression aptly over the course of 80 minutes. The text gives the cast time to zhoosh up the experience with improvisation (‘games', as they're described in the script), lending everything a palpable sense of unpredictability. The programme notes say that Nasi Voutsas, one of the creators of Eurohouse and Palmyra, helped develop Lands, which seems fitting given all pieces share some fascinating qualities, discussing power, performance and how the faults of others can exacerbate our own shortcomings.

As Steer's bouncing continues and the mini trampoline rhythmically wheezes its way through the show, it starts to feel like a ticking time bomb, as we wait for horrifying results. Sometimes it can be hard to live up to all three elements of an absurd tragicomedy. But Lands just, well, lands.