Review, Is this a Waste Land?, Charlotte Spencer Projects, Sadlers Wells, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Out in the East of London, we are taken to a barren land sitting in between skyscrapers and posh looking apartment buildings. Some built, some in the stages of being built, with the Olympic park and Orbital tower also over looking us.

There’s nothing here, but bits of old materials, items, objects in a small part of this fenced off area. We are asked to pick an object, and so the performance begins.

Armed with headphones and work gloves, we follow instructions spoken to us to explore and experience this space, at times as a group, at times on our own. Music and soundscapes are added to the recording, adding atmosphere and transporting us to different places while we look out on the concrete land. Over the space of an hour and half, we become familiar with this space, beginning to think of its past, present, future, of our own lives and those less fortunate or even in better positions. We think of society, of politics, of environment and nature. We think of London and gentrification. So much comes out of an empty fenced area and a bunch of junk.

Soon it is clear that we are being told different instructions, splitting up and doing different things in different groups. We are the performance, and while the instructions will be the same for each performance, it is clear that there is scope for each production to produce something unique dependent on the participants.

There is at first hesitation: What are we waiting for? What are we doing? What is the reasoning? Soon we are immersed and so all the elements and subjects that are brought to light that I mentioned earlier become clear, giving food for thought and making us feel a range of very deep emotions.

At times, there are professional performers who do their own things to the side, creating physical performances of their own, of artistic installations that are there and blink, you could miss them. A lot goes on and again, this makes each performance different for those attending – some may see some things, and from a certain angle, others something completely different. And that is the beauty of this.

Something so barren becomes familiar and filled with items, with people, with physical theatre, and without words, when we are teaming up or constructing, we work together and it makes sense. Somehow, communication isn’t always needed – after some time, we all just understand one another.

There are for sure some hard hitting moments; we are instructed to make, to create, to perform and soon we see it destroyed or taken away and there is a real social and political underbelly to what we are experiencing.

Is this a Waste Land? Is a complete triumph of physical theatre, of space exploration, of immersion and of poignant point making.

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