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Landscape II, Battersea Arts Centre – Review

Written and Performed by Melanie Wilson
In Collaboration with Fuel

Pros: A very delicate work with a stunning audiovisual aspect.

Cons: The narration could have been a little more energised and varied.

Our Verdict: A nice mix of multimedia and performance, although the delivery and script could have been polished.

Courtesy of Battersea Arts Centre

Landscape II is a poetic dialogue between different times and locations. It tells the story of a woman, Vivian, alone in a countryside as she delves through a box of notes and letters, left by her great-great-grandmother, Beatrice. It is a meditation on her interpretation of Beatrice’s life, and its connection to her own, as she revisits the places mentioned to take photographs. Interwoven into the story is another, more haunting, third voice: a middle-eastern woman the protagonist saw executed, whose memory she cannot forget.

The show is written, performed and directed by Melanie Wilson, a London based writer, performer and video-artist; in collaboration with production company Fuel. Wilson has a prestigious CV for sound design, having worked on Katie Mitchell’s productions in Germany over the last two years. Throughout the work Wilson sits at a bureau, set on an angle, with a screen along the right hand side. On the bureau, lies the laptop and mixing desk that Wilson uses to manipulate the multimedia throughout the performance – very skilfully controlling audiovisual material, as well as reading the narrating text.

The set, with its clear, angular spacing, is tight and aesthetically pleasing, although is shortly displaced by the use of film projected onto the screen, sinking into the background. The production is impeccable in its use of sound and image. The cinematography (Will Duke) is wonderful: vast, rugged, coastline scenes are so heart-achingly beautiful, they make you want to leave the theatre and jump through the screen. The sound, too, is very fine indeed – real sound clips are mixed with electronic effects and snippets of music, cocooning the audience in its rich, warm space.

The use of multimedia is interesting. Many productions either bombard their audience by telling the same thing through all media at once, or portray many things (and leave such a large number of gaps) that the end result is confusing. I felt Wilson got the balance right. There are many, very lovely moments throughout the performance where the multimedia intersect in interesting ways. For example, when, through the narration, the current scene depicts Vivian peeping through a window, yet all the film shows is the view from the window, and a pair of feet straining upwards. At other times, the film freezes into still images, to track the progress of Vivian’s photography. Perhaps the most poignant scene when the protagonist and her partner hold a heavy discussion about their future together, where the camera lingers over at two pairs of hands resting on a table; one pair gradually withdrawing, away from the other.

Whilst the sound design, cinematography and set was extremely tight, the only slightly weak part of the show was Wilson’s own performance and the text she was reading from. Even though the speech was closer to a form of storytelling than acted speech within a play, there could have been more variety in the manner in which the story was told, and I did not feel Wilson’s performance carried much depth. The use of the microphone created an intimate atmosphere, the audience catching every word, even in quiet sections. However, with no need to project, it also meant that sometimes it lacked energy, and the text was all spoken in the same, ‘poetic’ tone. The abundance of poetry, I feel, also slightly clogged the text, striving too hard to make meaning rather than trusting the already very beautiful choice of subject matter, sound and image.

Please feel free to leave your comments in the section below!

Landscape II runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until 8th November.
Box Office: 020 7223 222 or book online at https://www.bac.org.uk

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