Directed by Zinnie Harris this latest production in the round of Harris’s play previously performed to acclaim simply did not work for me. It is about a remote island in the Atlantic threatened by a volcanic eruption whose inhabitants are taken back to mainland Britain where they are offered jobs working in a glass factory and was inspired by her grandmother’s memories of life on Tristan de Cunha, possibly the most remote inhabited place on earth. All they want to do is go home. But there are reasons for not letting them – and they too have secrets which they do not want to reveal. Island life when storms cut people off and supply ships fail to arrive can call for drastic solutions. The trouble is that given today’s casting policy the islanders make a most peculiar bunch with Jenna Russell as Mill, the most forceful of the islanders, speaking with a Scottish accent whereas nobody else does and it jars. The the circular stage with the added chairs and tables wheeled on awkwardly never suggests anywhere remotely lost from the modern world and forces the cast to wander round seemingly at random or pretending to do things technological with nothing to do them on. The play survives the production but it is a close run thing. The individual performances are fine – Gerald Kyd is splendidly sinister as Hansen, who adapts to running things in civilisation splendidly, Cyril Nri as Bill creates a sad man baffled by a life he not only does not understand but wants no part of and Jenna Russell is a determined matriarch who will not be denied as Mill. The climate change risks are clearly enough set out and there is some gorgeous singing to create the mood from Shapla Salique but the seating is hideously uncomfortable and it does drag on and on. Island life is not for the faint hearted and neither is this production interesting and well acted though it certainly is.
Mr Hansen: Gerald Kyd.
Francis: Archie Madekwe.
Bill: Cyril Nri.
Rebecca: Kirsty Rider.
Mill: Jenna Russell.
Live Vocalist: Shapla Salique.
Director: Jennifer Tang.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting Designer: Prema Mehta.
Video Designer: Ian William Galloway.
Sound Designer: George Dennis.
Composer: Ruth Chan.
Musical Director: Michael Henry.
Movement Director: Ingrid Mackinnon.
Illusions Designer: John Bulleid.
Voice and Dialect Coach: Victoria Woodward.
Production photographs: Marc Brenner.