Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
The Blue Elephant Theatre is a small, hidden gem in Southwark and I don’t think many people know it exists. Certainly I’d never heard of it, so I was curious to see what was on offer as I’ve always been fascinated by interpretative theatre.
No Man’s Land was a small production, with just five actors and a musician (who provided dramatic plucking and strumming throughout), combined with simple staging that was effective, but strange.
In fact the whole play was rather odd. It sounded promising: set in World War I, a young girl obsessed with the wireless, goes on a journey to find her father. However, I left feeling quite confused.
After setting the scene, Ailsa (Alexandra Krassa) enters a different world with the man she listened to on the radio, searching for her father who has returned from the front line with shell shock.
Unfortunately the script didn’t allow enough explanation of what was going on, nor did the physical theatre help to enlighten us, as the acting was weak, with little expression or character interpretation.
When casting plays, acting ability should be more important than looks, but the grandfather (who was almost unnecessary to the plot) looked so much younger than the rest of the cast, it made the play even less believable. Ailsa didn’t act like a child, preferring instead to whine a little bit; it also seemed like she didn’t understand the story herself.
There were some good uses of silhouettes and shadow puppetry and an attempt at symbolism, although in my mind red poppies would have been more effective than red roses, as there is the connection to the fields of Flanders. I was also presented with a withered apple at one point, but I’m not really sure why!
I left quite puzzled as to what the overall message was supposed to be, with my main impression being that it was a poor man’s version of Pan’s Labyrinth.