State Theatre, the Arts Centre
August 12, 2008
Lands End is a journey into the imagination, following two characters as they travel through dreamscapes both whimsical and unsettling. Directed by Philippe Genty and Mary Underwood, it’s a triumph of theatrical illusion.
Right from the outset, it’s clear that this is a world where anything is possible. Fish fall from the sky and emailed correspondence flies through the air in the first of many perfectly executed, often comic, special effects.
The magic continues as baby dolls are transformed into giant puppets, who unashamedly explore each other’s hilariously unusual body parts.
It’s not all cartoonish humour though. Lovely synergy is created by a performer and a piece of paper as they flit about, windblown, mirroring each other’s jerkily charming movement. In another passage, an eerie mood is created by a part-insect, part-man puppet as he hovers above one of the women in a skilfully manipulated, complex duet.
Moments of melancholy and longing emerge as the two main characters struggle to connect with each other, emotionally balancing the frivolity of capers in wedding gowns and super-sized cardboard tubes.
Whether dramatic or abstract, the numerous scenes are succinctly directed and expertly performed. Aided by unseen technicians and ingenious props, the seven members of the multi-talented cast are able to create visually stunning tableaux that communicate on a level which goes beyond language.
The staging is extremely clever, yet ultimately simple. Rolling black curtain flats at the front and rear of stage allow for seamless entries and exits, as well as cinematic framing of the action. The lighting design is central to the work, creating striking black silhouettes against intensely coloured backgrounds or giving oversized, inflatable plastic bags the appearance of diaphanous jellyfish.
Compagnie Philippe Genty have brought wonder back to the stage in this marvellous meander through the subliminal.
(First published in The Age newspaper)