Review: No Man’s Land ***

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At West Yorkshire Playhouse

FEW productions have a build-up as epic as this. The Playhouse’s latest offering is the culmination of an international project between theatre staff, artists and young people entitled Borderlines.

Starting with workshops and continuing with visits between Berlin and Leeds, the aim was to explore the idea of borders and how they identify us culturally.

No Man’s Land represents the end product – a cast of four actors in a short but sweet play involving a pair of German adults and a pair of English youths.

The inappropriately titled Kitten is a teenager doing community service after going off the rails. He works for pensioner Viktor under the watchful eye of his supervisor Carole.

While trying to impress both observers he has to contend with runaway girl Houdini who insists on hiding in the shed at the bottom of the garden where most of the action takes place.

The notion of borders is touched upon by Kitten, played admirably by Paul Holowaty, slowly gaining an insight into the past life of Viktor, tackled well by Stefan Faupel in a performance which challenges him to play somewhere far older than his actual age.

The latter actually crossed the border of East and West Germany, not by some daring escape but by miraculously stumbling drunk across the many hurdles which separated the two halves of this war-torn country.

Does this represent a comprehensive exploration of the idea of borders? No, but it just about gets away with it, partly because the characterisation is strong enough to maintain our interest.

Writer Aisha Khan often errs into creating long, rambling monologues which are just a bit too much.

On the other hand the set is nicely peculiar and gives this some edge, even if the central dynamic of the story is essentially a rather old one.

Rod McPhee

Until Saturday, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Hill, Leeds, 7pm, Fri Mat 1.30pm, £10. Tel: 0113 2137700.

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