I am honoured to have been asked to share my thoughts, feelings and experiences after each of three performances of The Landings. I thoroughly enjoyed the Liberator series - everything they gave me, and how they made me feel, so I am very excited to see how experiencing the ‘same’ performance three times from different viewpoints will affect me. Don’t worry if you’ve not been yet – there are no ‘spoilers’ here! Oh, and everyone’s experience will be different to mine, that’s the point. Every one of my senses was tested; every feeling imaginable was experienced; and my brain, well, that is still processing the whole thing days later. This is hard – putting into words what I felt, but I’ll give it a go!
I felt excitement, trepidation and unity whilst waiting for the bus to our start points, which turned to a sense of loss of each time the audience had to make a choice about which way to go. Watching part of our group move away into the unknown was surprisingly powerful, as was reuniting with them later. I experienced a growing sense of belonging as the performers herded us and encouraged us without words on our journey.
An unexpected irrational thought when a child performer ran away from his adult – the icy shiver of fear and dread - where is my own son? WHERE IS HE? Obviously he was with his grandparents where I left him, but for that split second I felt sick, a cold sweat, and breathless. It took a while for my heart rate to return to normal.
Eyes focused on the performers; ears trained on the sounds of the drum, the plucking and playing of the violin, the haunting siren. Then the unexpected, unpredictable elements - the weather; the natural light; the call of flying geese; the chuffing of the steam train; the sound of the sea; the state of the ground underfoot; how members of the public dealt with coming across us (some waited, other walked around, and one even walked straight through!); the smell of the sea, and wet grass.
Then there was the field of cows. They stared as we passed by accompanied by a violinist, and then raced to the gate to catch another glimpse of us. The watchers became the watched. The audience were now the performers.
I remember the desk. A symbol authority, boarders, permits, permission, orders, them and us? It also made me wonder what jobs have been left behind? What did they do before they landed? What was their ‘normal life’ story?
I promised no spoilers but at each point the audience was totally absorbed in what was happening – whether it was a solo, small group, or the whole cast. Amongst the groups I was with I noticed some audience members deliberately moving into a space seeking solitude, others shuffled closer to their companions. I heard a sign of relief; saw tears fall; and more often than not there was a brief period of stillness before we moved on as everyone absorbed as much as they could from that moment before leaving it behind. The performers were mesmerising – the dance, the sequences, the emotions, the backward glances, and the building sense of becoming part of their tribe. Amazing. And all without words.
Throughout the performance we made choices; had choices made for us; and watched others deal with the consequences of their choices. Did I choose for the best? Why did I make that choice? From choosing what night to buy tickets for and what footwear to put on, to which group to follow to and whether to interact with the performers - all choices that had an impact on our own individual experience. But what did I miss by making that choice? What did the other groups experience that I didn’t? Have they any idea what I had seen and felt? How will my choices next time change my perspective?
And at the end I felt curious – what about the performers I didn’t see? What happens to them? Where do they go? Where are they now? I felt the power of grief for the performers we ‘lost’ along the way. Finally, the comfort and warmth of hot homemade soup.
I can’t wait for next time.