Tuesday, 16 July 2019

REVIEW: Holy Land at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre

These days it seems people will post pretty much anything on social media for a reaction. From retweets on Twitter, to emojis on Facebook, and of course double taps on Instagram, the modern day generation seems to have forgotten about the origin purpose and flip side to the World Wide Web. Enter ‘Holyland’; a place where all the darkest sides of the internet are made into reality. A place where you go to view content you know you shouldn’t, and yet can’t resist a sneak peek at, the dark mirror to YouTube, if you will.

Written by newcomer Matthew Gouldesbrough, ELEGY’s latest project of ‘Holyland’ is about to complete its run at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town before embarking on a full UK tour, including a spot at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show explores the prevalent and haunting matter of the darker side of both life, and the internet. 

Presented as a three hand cast, we follow three separate stories of Jon (Rick Romero), Tim (Matthew Gouldesbrough) and Kate (Hannah Marrison), all of which in turn lead us to one question; how little control do we have of human nature? Containing themes of sexual abuse, violence and disturbing footage and images, this production certainly has a highly intense and important topic at the centre of its core; a topic that as an audience member I was eager to hear more about. 

Credit at this point must be given to the unexpected turns and depth within the plot that have been created by writer Gouldesbrough, whom has clearly carried out extensive research to ensure his piece is both factually correct, and sensitive to the topics explored. This being said, my eagerness began to fade throughout the piece due to issues within pacing, delivery and extensive text length. As three stand-alone actors, each one of this cast are clearly highly skilled within their craft and each displayed touching and fully immersed moments of acting. That being said, I felt that the piece really could have benefitted from scenes including the full cast, as opposed to the rotation monologue set up the piece followed, which often became predictable, repetitive, and disengaged. While this set up allows the story to progress, this repetitive cycle made the story both hard to follow, and created a disconnect. This disconnect appeared to carry over the cast themselves, each of whom at times appeared to deliver various sections of the script at the same level. As an audience member I was eager to follow all three of these characters on a full journey, and was willing for each to show great moments of light and shade. Unfortunately this failed to translate for me, ultimately leading to the lack of empathy and connection I had with each of these characters. 

As a piece, Holyland hones in on a topic that absolutely needs to be explored and shared with the public. The concept is both thought provoking and divergent to mainstream theatre, and displays some strong moments. From a personal standpoint, I feel this piece could benefit from further ensemble exploration, and an extensive cut within length in order for the plot to flow without fault in pace, or engagement. It must be said though, that I feel this piece may provoke entirely contrasting personal reactions for each audience member, and therefore it may be worth attending to explore your opinion. 

Review by Adam Tipping 

Rating: ★★

Seat: Free Seating | Price of Ticket: Starting from £12

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