Invisible Lands @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

A hypnotic blend of puppetry, physicality and video projections, Invisible Lands is as captivating as it is unusual

Review by Alice Lannon | 07 Feb 2019

No words from any actual language are spoken in Livsmedlet Theatre's Invisible Lands. The piece instead takes place against a soundscape of gibberish, which evokes the disorientating, overwhelming experience of being a refugee. Yet we need no words to understand the feelings of fear and despair that are being communicated through the intricate choreography of the bodies of the two actors, along with a lot of tiny figurines.

The two bodies become physical landscapes – mountains, valleys and seas across which the tiny figures travel to seek safety. The figures themselves are impressively detailed, and the interaction with the bodies of the actors is impressively choreographed and cleanly executed. Who would have thought that a blue painted belly of sea, with a figurine lying motionless on a beach of skin, could evoke such sadness? Or that a tiny model helicopter flying through rain from a spray bottle could arouse such fear? It is a testament to the talent of all involved that a puppet show can have this much depth to it.

Video projections are also well-utilised in this performance, with the dexterous performers themselves using a hand-held video camera to film footage which appears on the big screen. Zoomed in, we feel one step removed from seeing their bodies as bodies – rather they become living, breathing landscapes. The effect is both impressive, and a little scary.

Overall, Invisible Lands is a truly innovative piece of theatre, communicating the experience of refugees on a wordless, visceral level. The impact is both harrowing and haunting: away from the debates, away from language, we are forced to confront the humanity of a group the establishment is always working to dehumanize. At the end of the day, the piece seems to be saying, we are all just living, breathing bodies.

Invisible Lands @ Traverse Theatre, run ended; touring to Paisley Arts Centre, Thu 7 Feb and Perth Theatre, Fri 8 Feb