REVIEW: ISLANDER @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
🎭 Islander: A New Musical
📍 The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Thursday 28th September 2023
This week I was invited to the Theatre Royal Plymouth for Islander, a new musical which is co-produced by the theatre and is premiering in Plymouth before heading out on a tour of North America.
As the audience enter the auditorium there are sounds of waves crashing which helps to create the perfect atmosphere, and you already feel that you are isolated with nature. The interesting and rather innovative thing about this production is that this sound is the only pre-recorded sound. Every other sound heard throughout the entire production os created and recorded live on stage in a pioneering piece of theatre. This means it's even more important than usual to ensure your mobile phone is switched off!
All the sounds are created with their voices, with the addition of clapping or tapping on occasion which adds an incredible depth and, at times, almost haunting effect. This production is a musical, but again all the sounds are created exclusively by the two performers. The fact that there were only two performers make this achievement all the more impressive.
The story of Islander is set on a remote Scottish island. A place is essentially cut off from the mainland with even the children partaking in distance learning since the schools shut. The islanders are living an almost archaic life. Islander blurs the lines between myth and reality when first a whale becomes beached on the island, followed by a mysterious stranger.
The production has two casts which alternate performances and on the night I attended the blue team were performing which was made up of Lois Craig and Julia Murray. The only word I can use to describe them both is exceptional. They each played one central character each alongside a myriad of others.
As Eilidh, Craig beautifully portrayed both the innocence of youth as well as her yearning for the mainland and a different life. Eilidh is the main character and the story unfolds around her. Craig does get to showcase her talent and she gives diverse performances of characters such as a pregnant lady and a gentleman whose garden gnome has been stolen!
Murray gives a strong performance as Arran who is the mysterious stranger who is seemingly washed up onto the beach. We also get to see her comedic side as the wonderfully eccentric grandmother and also reporting the weather on the local radio.
The relationship between Eilidh and Arran is shown with breathtaking wonder as they discover a shared heritage which stretched back generations. They are kindred spirits and share stories as they forge a friendship that transcends barriers.
The songs throughout have a strong Celtic vibe and the audience is treated to incredibly strong, almost haunting vocals which really draw you in to the story.
The show is technically strong and aside from the wizardry of recording the sounds, the lighting design is subtle yet wondrous and creates a glorious effect throughout, especially during the storm scene and when a helicopter is flying overhead.
Islander is an absolute triumph and all the aspects including direction and set design marry together wonderfully to create something special and truly memorable. If you get the opportunity then I highly recommend you catch the show in Plymouth before it heads across the Atlantic!
Islander is playing at The Drum at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 7th October. Head to www.theatreroyal.com to check availability and to book tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My ticket for this performance of Islander was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the star rating given or the content of my review.
CAST: Lois Craig as Eilidh (& others); Julia Murray as Arran (& others)
ALTERNATE CAST: Sylvie Stevenson as Eilidh (& others); Stephanie MacGaraidh as Arran (& others)
CREATIVES: Amy Draper - Concieved & original Director; Eve Nicol - Staging & Assosiate Director; Stewart Melton - Book; Finn Anderson - Composer; Lyricist; Musical Director & Loop Pedal Designer; Emma Bailey - Set Designer; Hahnji Jang - Costume Designer; Simon Wilkinsson - Lighting Designer; Sam Kusnetz - Sound Designer; Katherine Skene - Casting Director; Shilpa T-Hyland - UK Associate Director
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hour 25 minutes with no interval
Strobe / flashing lights; Smoke / haze; Mild language
The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.