With its eclectic composition of scenes, monologues, choreography and voice-over, Landscape (1989) is a genuinely intriguing production full of interesting elements – although the overall result is perhaps a mixed success.
Intriguing production full of interesting elements - although the overall result is perhaps a mixed success.
The show opens with the two actors delivering a speech about the year 1989. They muse upon a famous paper published by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama in which he declared that 1989 would be ‘the end of history’ – no major sociopolitical changes should be expected. With the defeat of socialism, Fukuyama proclaimed, society had reached its stable end-point – a naive assertion which they observe has been proven wrong. They then segue-way (via a brief stopover in Chernobyl) to discussing the Humongous Fungus, a giant subterranean mushroom in Oregon which is thought to be the world’s largest living organism.
It’s an interesting beginning and it peaked my curiosity; however, as the play went on I became none the wiser. A series of disconnected scenes followed, in various styles and on various topics. Mushrooms cropped up often, but other overarching themes were hard to identify. Looking down at my notes the words ‘what links all this?’ have be twice underlined. Perhaps this post-modern meandering is the ultimate rejection of Fukuyama’s (distinctly un-postmodern) end of history narrative.
The actors themselves are talented and deserve credit for their performances: they embody good stage presence, strong chemistry with each other, and their physical and vocal performances are convincing. Sometimes they neglect to consider sight-lines and disappear from view for the back row of the audience, though this a minor infraction. Many individual scenes have been nicely done too (a tender episode in which featured the actors cook mushrooms on stage, evoking a cosy campfire feel, sticks in my memory).
The show’s technical aspects are simple. Warm floods of different coloured light are used to set the mood and the occasional spooky voice over or song adds atmosphere.
Although it’s current iteration lacks coherence and energy, with some improvements it could be made into a strong piece of surreal theatre.