Review: Holy Land

4 star rating
An unsettling and disturbing three hander, examining the seamy side of the internet, employs pacy direction and powerful performances to instigate discussion and provoke thought.
Holy Land at The Space

Image: The Space

Theatre: The Space

Closes here: Saturday 15 June 2019

Matthew Gouldesbrough

Patrick Medway


Jon - Rick Romero

Tim - Matthew Gouldesbrough

Kate - Hannah Morrison


Jon has just lost his daughter.

Tim can't leave his office.

Kate is just trying to get through the day.

Three stories of online escapism and revolt interweave in this new show from Elegy.

Fusing together multimedia, vivid new writing and spoken word Holy Land is an excavation of the dark side of the internet and human nature.

Who is really accountable for what happens, how little control do we have and how much more can we take?

NOTE: The trailer contains flashing images.


ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Wednesday 12 June 2019
Review star rating image

When I first encountered the internet - as part of my work, long before it had become anywhere near to being ubiquitous - its power to benefit humanity in multifarious ways was glaringly obvious.

And as the 'net has spread and become faster and more powerful, new and sometimes surprising benefits have emerged and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future.

So now, few of us book flights by seeing a travel agent, and many of us shop online saving time and effort, as opposed to trudging round supermarkets and shops.

And there's no doubt that we've only scratched the surface of the internet's potential, since it would seem to be limited only by our imaginations.

But as Matthew Gouldesbrough's uncompromisingly forthright play shows, our imaginations are capable of realising and publishing material on the 'net that is not always beneficial.

For there's another side to the internet which is seamy, unsavoury and downright nasty, with the power to have long-lasting, dire and, possibly, fatal consequences.

Essentially, what Holy Land seeks to bring to our attention is the creation and publication on the internet of material depicting sexual activity, physical abuse and violence, often without the consent or knowledge of participants.

Holy Land is a three hander, given pacy directorial treatment from Patrick Medway that makes the 90 minute running time fly by.

Each of the characters take their turns in the spotlight, giving us glimpses of their interactions with and responses to these darker aspects of the internet.

The narrative here is non-linear replicating, or hinting at, our flitting use of the internet, or suggesting the flashes of bits and bytes that course relentlessly through cables and servers 24-7 to deliver text, images and services to our browsers and apps.

That relay of seemingly harmless numerical data is mirrored with images projected onto four screens - highlighting the concept of visual material, but also amplifying the disturbing experiences of the three people we encounter.

Cast of Holy Land at The Space

Cast of Holy Land - photo by Greg Goodale

Now I'm not certain whether any of the characters are meant to be from the same family or not.

I don't think it actually matters since the importance in terms of the play's general discourse is that they are representative of different groups, ages and gender.

As it turns out, Holy Land is actually as much about the nature of human beings as it is about the internet.

After all, the medium itself is not responsible for making and uploading abusve or degrading images - that is actually undertaken by human beings.

Overall, Holy Land doesn't offer much in the way of new information or a particularly unique insight into the nature of the internet that we're now living with.

We already have evidence of extremely sad cases showing how images, made public via the internet, have affected victims to the extent that they have felt compelled to take their own lives.

But where Holy Land certainly succeeds is in its intense dramatic representation, described in powerfully compelling performances from all three actors, uniting numerous strands and issues, and directing our attention to provoke thought and discussion.

However, it also inadvertently stirs something of a sense of powerlessness, since the matter of controlling an open and diverse system like the internet is a massive and complex task of global proportions.

And it also begs deeply discomfiting questions about the nature of human beings, and how we balance matters such as innovation, freedom and responsibility.

Highly recommended.

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