Although I tried not to think about which route I would be on on this, my last time seeing The Landings, I really wanted to be on the Blue Anchor bus to be able to choose the seaside option. On arrival I discovered that it was not meant to be, but was determined to enjoy whatever the night would bring. A few minutes later Sarah asked me to swap routes and I was delighted. So many emotions before we had even left the Farm!
I had seen the first pieces on this route before, but they were still incredibly moving and spine tingling. I watched the audience this time - it was fascinating how some people whispered, others stood in silence. Some moved closer to their friends, others stepped away. There was also surprise and shock when seeing the performers in the sea and then watching them strip off and change. Seeing how the audience responded to the first bell and made journey decisions was equally interesting – a group decision here and a solitary choice there. I couldn’t help glancing across the train tracks to watch the other group disappear into the distance.
The route I chose was a much darker, more intense experience than my last two performances. I sensed the loss of those who had not arrived yet - would they arrive at all? Of wanting to move backwards but having to move forwards. Of grief and longing, but without closure. The crashing waves on one side and the crunching rustle of the maize on the other increased the noise of conflict in my mind.
Then there was the struggle over leadership. Who chooses a leader? Is it the strongest? The most informed? Do you follow the crowd or your instinct? Being so close to the performers at this moment, feeling the brush of an arm, a breath on your cheek made it uncomfortable, brutal, but honest. It was intense and I noticed how some of the audience stepped back, others moved behind their friends, and a mother shielded her child.
At the next bell I chose to follow the angry man. Our journey up the drainage channel was spiky, dark, intense. He was obviously in torment. What had he seen? What had he experienced? Where had he come from? And then there was the boy. Was he the man’s past self, come to comfort him? A stranger who helped mend him? Their meeting was breath taking. The walk back down the channel was much happier, calmer and I hadn’t realised how tense I had been until my breathing returned to normal.
As the darkness fell and the tide came in, the division between the performers and audience shrunk. The performers helped us up the rocks and guided us in the darkness. I felt safe and comfortable with them, and their concern for us within their roles was obvious. We were, for that moment, one of them, equal.
I loved the bus piece. Each of the three times I have been part of it has been brilliant. As the bus drove off this time I heard ‘What do we do now?’; a chuckle of realisation; and a child asking ‘what does it mean?’. A fabulous concept.
The dropping piece in the dark was so intense. I couldn’t see how the rest of the audience reacted, but the atmosphere was incredible. The grief at the loss of the child was felt by us all – I don’t know if I felt it so much more this time because it was pitch black, or because I knew it was the last performance, or maybe because of the emotional route I had followed this time, but it was so strong and I can feel it even now.
Seeing the performers for the last time before they disappeared into the darkness was tear inducing. It really was the end. I felt really drained on the journey back to the farm, cold on the inside, and mentally tired. I felt as though I had been through so much with the performers, that I would miss them, yet no words had been exchanged. It was a very bizarre sensation.
I cannot express how amazing the performers were. Regardless of age and experience they gave their all each night and I cannot put into words how mind blowing that is when considering the range of elements they had to work with and against. They gave so much and I am truly thankful. The crew also deserve so much praise – they guided without leading, set up and cleared away in silence, provided support in secret – true professionals. And the soup at the end – delicious!
Words fail me at this point. I wanted to say something about how incredible the whole of Sarah’s concept is, but I really cannot find a way of expressing my admiration. When Sarah first explained the concept to me I was immediately excited by it. She explained about the refugees and their journeys, and it is only now that I realise I have not used the term refugee once in any of my reviews. To me the performers were just people on a journey – as we all are. I will miss them and their stories, but I won’t forget. Bravo!