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This Lost Property was well worth finding


Review by Hannah Knowles

FOLLOWING the success of Catching Dust, Tangled Feet return to The Pleasance with their latest work, Lost Property.

The company has stuck faithfully to its stated aim of escaping ‘naturalistic’ drama, choosing to address the subject of their play, loss, with their trademark combination of sparing dialogue and bewilderingly athletic physical theatre.

The production opens with a book falling through the ceiling into the midst of a group of characters wandering around the stage.

Together, they read the pages of the book, which serves as a prologue, posing a question that many of us have asked about our missing belongings: ‘Can there be a place where all these things go?’

The production offers an answer by creating a world of lost property supervised by an attendant who attempts to bring a semblance of order to the chaos he reigns over.

This seems to be an impossible task, with people tumbling in through the walls, grappling with and leaping over each other in their increasingly desperate attempts to find what once belonged to them.

In the various scenarios presented to the audience, Katherine, a mother, searches for her children in a school; Ryan, a teacher at the school, looks for the photo that proves he and Katherine went to school together; two children search for their parents; and a woman seeks her former lover.

All in turn queue to ask the attendant whether the things they are seeking are in his lost property. His vague responses, repeatedly stating that he needs more information, highlight the hopelessness of their quests.

This sense of futility that arises from loss reduces even grown adults to a child-like state of confusion and frustration, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the most effective passages in the play are those involving the two children who have lost their parents.

Where, occasionally, the dialogue between the adult characters lags, the interchanges between the young brother and sister shine with wit and pathos.

Both Leon Smith and Emily Jane Horn make remarkably convincing children, with just the right balance of wide-eyed innocence and sadistic cruelty characterising their scenes together.

Their bickering over who has to carry their suitcase is a joy to watch, with Smith, in particular, giving a master-class in comic timing.

At one point, the children sit exhausted on either side of the backdrop, and watch as Katherine and Ryan stumble around looking for a missing phone number and missing photo respectively.

Frustrated at witnessing the two repeat the same movements and cover the same ground, the boy and girl cry out words of encouragement and help. Sometimes, the play seems to imply, it takes a child’s mind to see clearly the things that adults’ minds confuse.

In a nice twist, the audience discovers that the lost property attendant has, in fact, been hoarding people’s belongings.

When his former lover confronts him over his actions, asking him ‘What are you trying to find by keeping this stuff?’, he replies simply: ‘Me.’ Which, of course, is exactly what all of the characters are looking for, as they strive to regain a part of themselves in their search for objects, or people from their past.

Thankfully, the psychology never becomes too heavy-handed, and pretension is something the company seem to be refreshingly devoid of.

Despite their insistence in the programme that they don’t tell the audience what to do or think, Tangled Feet end the production with the upbeat message that the things that are truly important to us will be found, even if it takes years.

Although this is a rather naïve take on life, it makes for beguiling theatre.

As a follow-on from Catching Dust’s bleak tale of doomed relationship cycles, Lost Property reveals a company as adept at handling whimsical humour as it is serious drama.

It also shows a growing confidence and maturity from the actors, as well as refinement in direction from Nathan Curry.

Although The Pleasance is a fantastic fringe venue, Tangled Feet deserve a wider audience. If the talent and ambition shown in their work so far is anything to go by, it shouldn’t be long before they achieve it.

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