Alien Land, VAULT Festival

by Laura Kressly

Saeed is a Bedouin Palestinian refugee, currently in prison. With no one to speak to, his imagination conjures all sorts of beings and memories. He tells the walls his family history and remembers an old man, a donkey, and and a faceless alien. But this disjointed piece takes too long to come together, and the chosen style confuses and disorientates rather than fully rallies the audience to his side.

Momin Swaitat demonstrates a high level of physical performance skill, easily differentiating characters. His transitions are quick and well-lit, and his mask work engaging. He is undoubtedly a compelling performer. But too much of the time, there is not enough exposition to justify these characters and the stories they share.

The best moments are near the end of the piece where enough backstory has been built up to allow audience empathy. Though there is a clear live art influence in the work, more narrative – episodic or linear – would strengthen the dramaturgical goals. The character’s feelings of alienation in his homeland eventually emerge, but too late to have significant impact.

With a more focused structure and additional context earlier in the work, Alien Land will draw in a wider audience base and more clearly communicate the rich stories and experiences underpinning the show. There are important statements buried in oblique, vague references and metaphors that are a shame to miss.

Alien Land runs through 28 January.

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