Sophie Steer must have calves of steel. She must have quads of pure granite. Because for almost all of ‘Lands’, the 90-minute long hit fringe show from Bush Theatre associate artists Antler, she’s bouncing up and down on a mini trampoline (a trampette, as Google has just told me). And she can’t get off.
Leah Brotherhead, on the other hand, must have the patience of a saint. Because for a great big chunk of ‘Lands’, she’s piecing together a thousand-piece jigsaw. When she’s not trying to persuade Sophie to get off the trampette, that is.
What’s the point of this? Well, a) it’s kind of cool and b) it serves as a surprisingly apt metaphor. A metaphor for what is not exactly clear – possibly addiction, possibly depression, definitely obsessive, compulsive behaviour of some sort – but that doesn’t really matter. Because Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s show isn’t about mental health per se, it’s about how we deal with friends who are suffering.
As, with increasing exasperation, Leah attempts to get Sophie to stop bouncing (running at her, counting her down, even slapping her in one lengthy, wince-worthy section), the show slowly emerges as a compelling examination of how to help someone who can’t help themselves. Of how easy it is to hurt one another. Of how its just impossible to understand each other sometimes.
It’s really funny in parts, stuffed full of quirky humour, but it’s also mightily moving too, thanks largely to its superb cast of two. Brotherhead is remarkable, a smile or a grimace constantly tugging at the corner of her mouth as she grows ever more frustrated, not knowing whether to laugh, scream or cry. And Steer is just as good: she somehow captures the complex cocktail of denial and regret that often defines addiction, as she hops incessantly up and down, up and down.
It might be a smidge too long at 90 minutes, both for the audience and for Steer’s knees, but this show is still an articulate look at friendship under pressure.