The original cast of Lie of the Land, from Edinburgh 2008
The differences between this attractive couple, hiding behind shades, suitcases in hand in uniform grey as they arrive at their new country home, freshly fled from the city, are almost too sharply delineated for us ever to believe they’re really in love. She, southern, priviledged, wealthy, daughter of an arms dealer and him from the midlands, poor, hardworking and inclined to socialism. Their optimism and excitement at arriving by the “uncaring” sea which may finally engulf them is soon undermined by different desires; hers for children, his for worthy self sufficiency. Unable to agree, they settle for settling in.
Naturally, country life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and they wrestle individually with missing the city. They are completely isolated from other people and barely able to communicate together. He takes up local history, she tries to find a new age peace with yoga. She hears god in the roar of a seashell, whereas he hears a battlejet thundering overhead. War breaks out in the cities, the waters rise and floods the lowlands. Him and her try anxiously to maintain a safe haven in their ever more precarious world. Is it death that knocks so loudly on their door?
The playwright, Torben Betts, creates a distinctive poetic text for the play which both distances the action from reality and heightens the concerns underpinning it – the repetition of the mantra that the couple have inherited “A house in the country. A house by the sea” as if it will save them becomes, by each invocation, ever more desperate. Neat use of a white marker pen in the dark space creates instant props and scenery and the highly structure five-part play is divided by projections, as if from a silent movie, setting the scene. The two actors sustain the intensity throughout whilst allowing humour to filter through the bleak world view masked by their hyper articulacy. This is a smart, thought provoking, imaginative and beautifully performed piece.
Lie of the Land is in Studio 2 at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston until 2 May. Tickets £14/10 or go on pay what you can Tuesday for quite a deal, subject to availability. Book online or call 020 7503 1646.