We live in a world of walls. Closed Lands, Simon Grangeat’s play staged by LegalAliens Theatre, an all-female company of migrant artists, explores this tendency to fortify borders and build barriers, from the Berlin Wall, which fell in 1989, to Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican-American border.
The company, all dressed in white, mix text, movement and video to show the dehumanising impact of these policies and explore the plight of the immigrant trying to cross one of these walls, the perils of the journey, the pressures that would push someone to undertake something so risky, the ever-present threat of death. The rhetoric surrounding migrants is also brought into sharp focus, the way national security is predicated on keeping some people on the other side of the wall, declaring them ‘illegal’.
The performers multirole, playing both the migrants and the politicians using them as pawns, including a gurning caricature of Trump. Images of Tetris – a cascade of falling blocks – are projected on the back wall, along with YouTube clips. The details are often disquieting, descriptions of the ‘concertina wire’ designed to tear clothes and flesh, or the people who sabotage those making the crossing by leaving false maps, but there are issues with the audio and comprehension, and the pacing of the piece feels lethargic. Closed Lands sits between performance-lecture and something more expressive and poetic, but doesn’t quite work as either, despite an undeniable potency to the way it discusses injustice.