Devised and performed by Dundee Rep’s Community Company, The Land Beneath Our Feet is a dark, thought-provoking tale of community eviction. It invites the audience to make its own judgements about the space we call home, as residents and ruthless developers clash with tragic consequences.
Director Catrin Evans began working with the community performers in January, and their creativity and enthusiasm soon shaped her initial idea for a play based on the themes of land and space into this compelling and, at times, chillingly relevant drama.
Designer Leila Kalbassi’s bleak, industrial stage design sets the tone. This is a community without a community; an urban dystopia where the individual is isolated and ignored. Ironically, it is the threat of eviction that brings the residents together. As possession orders rain from the sky, the community finally finds its voice. The developers, represented by the sinister “Sir” (Raymond Usher) and the ineffectual “Mr” (Gordon Feeney), hold neighbourhood meetings and use the sort of corporate double-speak that foreshadows treachery. The residents are “challenged by change”, they declare, and need to be “encouraged and supported” as their homes are demolished around them. A video screen provides the audience with the chilling image of Sir manipulating model buildings and rearranging the landscape by sleight of hand.
The residents, played with great depth and empathy by a diverse and talented cast, must choose whether they will stand together to fight the eviction, or give in to fear and a sense of self-preservation. Tellingly, each neighbour has a number rather than a name. This confers a level of anonymity that can, at times, be confusing. If the intention is to point out that we are all merely numbers, as opposed to individuals, then the device works rather well.
Embracing multiple forms of storytelling, this innovative and exciting piece of work finds new things to say about the land we occupy. It explores materialism and greed, the physicality of the structures we surround ourselves with, and our intangible connection to them. For some, home is a self-imposed prison, a place of isolation, while for others, it provides an excuse to cling to the past. It is The Nomad (Marjory Robertson), a homeless woman living on the periphery of society, who perhaps explains it best: “Home is more than a shelter; it’s a declaration that you’re worth something.”
Dundee Rep’s Community Company has established an exciting tradition of innovative theatre, beginning in the 1980s with such productions such as They Fairly Mak Ye Work (1986) and Witch’s Blood (1987). The group have brought to life various artforms, including operettas and interactive promenade performances across the city. More recently, the Ensemble show She Town (2013) enjoyed critical acclaim.
Dundee Rep’s Head of Creative Learning, Gemma Nicol, has praised the company for continuing to “push the boundaries of what it means to be part of an inclusive Community Company, ensuring that the ethos and the work produced by the group is ambitious, artistically excellent and constantly evolving.”