Closed Lands, VAULT Festival

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By Joanna Trainor

Concertina wire. I’m not sure it’s possible to get LegalAliens’ constant repetition of the definition of concertina wire out of mind. This sweet voice calmly talking about the tiny blades used to cut through material and skin over and over again is haunting.

Perhaps what stands out the most though is that Closed Lands’ story has become even more relevant in the last few weeks; the audience enter to a recording of Priti Patel announcing the new immigration points system. The piece starts in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but there certainly isn’t a sign of a finishing point to the story. The endless walking, that the cast take in turns to perform throughout the entire show, will continue indefinitely for migrants. Or at least it will if things continue as they are.

The cast multi-role all of the largely nameless parts, so the audience get the feeling that this is everyone’s story. No two journeys are the same, the company explore passages from Mexico to the US, to Libya to mainland Europe, but the experiences could be anyone’s.

There are quite a few technical problems on opening night. It’s a shame because when the tech works or happens later than expected, it is clear there are some excellent videos and cartoons on offer, and that a lot of thought had gone into creating it. More than that, it probably goes a long way in helping the audience understand the performance what with the non-linear nature of the production. Even from the few snippets we see, it’s obvious that the tech has the potential to signpost people through what’s happening and connect them to the heart of LegalAliens’ message.

LegalAliens have created a grotesque and distressing production with the occasional moment that definitely hits home, but with some technical tweaks this could be a show that packs a real punch.

Closed Lands runs through 8 March.

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