Tag Archives: Ewan Stewart


Wickies: The Vanishing Men Of Eilean Mor


Park Theatre




“The strength of this production sits with its creatives and the actors, who wrestled as best they could with a script that needs some serious trimming”


“A lighthouse is a symbol of man’s good intentions” the experienced James Ducat (Ewan Stewart) tells wet-behind-the-ears keeper Thomas Marshall (Jamie Quinn) as he comes ashore to help man remote Eilean Mor. The lighthouse sets the scene for this eerie tale of three keepers, or wickies, who disappear from Flannan Isles in apparently mysterious circumstances.

In addition to the central narrative, the play is packed with stories about lighthouse keepers going mad with isolation and creepy bodies flailing in the wind. It’s a fertile setting for playwright (Paul Morrissey) to wring a story from.

But it’s not all windswept despair. The script is woven together with joyous and melancholy sea shanties sung acapella by the actors, which serves to highlight the men’s isolation marooned in this distant place. The direction (Shilpa T-Hyland) makes use of the whole stage – at times the actors emerge from the audience, while a rickety ladder is shimmied up and down to give an impression of height (the lighthouse is very tall, we’re reminded frequently).

The set design ( Zoe Hurwitz), lighting design (Bethany Gupwell) and sound design (Nik Paget-Tomlinson) all deserve special mention. They work together to create a true sense of isolation and claustrophobia. In particular lighting designer Bethany Gupwell’s role in a play where the keeper’s one goal is to ‘keep the light on’ at all times, is a central one. Lighting decisions are clever – at one point the theatre is cast into complete darkness while Thomas Marshall (Jamie Quinn) carries a lantern across the stage that casts a shaky beam of light to make the audience feel like ships tossed around on a stormy sea.

The strength of this production sits with its creatives and the actors, who wrestled as best they could with a script that needs some serious trimming.

The audience is told the same information again and again, just by different people. Pace is slow. It could do well with being cut to 90 minutes and losing the interval.

There’s an entire scene where Donald MacArthur and Thomas Marshall sit around a table discussing why the senior keeper left his family to work on the lighthouse, but we’d just been told why moments before. Thomas Marshall – “you ask a lot of questions, don’t you?” – was indeed, always asking questions, and often the same ones, repeatedly. Why had the men chosen to work in such remote places? Why did they leave their family?

The play’s intentions are good. There’s humour in spades – Graeme Dalling delivers some excellent one-liners, and he performs his role as a man metaphorically and literally lost at sea with energy and melancholy passion. But there’s a sense that this play could do with more showing and less telling. I wanted to see the actions they described – rather than hearing the inspector’s descriptions of what he thought had happened to the men, I wanted to see the actors act.

Several questions remain unanswered. The predominant one is why this play now? Why this play here, at the Park Theatre? But perhaps that doesn’t matter to all but the most diehard theatre fan. Afterall, it can feel at times that theatre has become something to clench your stomach ahead of and check your mental constitution after, and Wickies, other than a few ghost stories, doesn’t require that.

Inspection of the website post-show reveals that the play is partnering with StrongMen, a charity that helps men through bereavement. And perhaps that’s the only loose theme that comes through – a symbol of man’s enduring isolation in a world that’s not built for them. At its heart, this is just a good yarn, a ghost story threaded with reality. If you want to see something this season that’s not a show about Christmas, then this is a fine place to while away an evening.



Reviewed on 5th December 2022

by Eleanor Ross

Photography by Pamela Raith




Previously reviewed at this venue:


Flushed | ★★★★ | October 2021
Abigail’s Party | ★★★★ | November 2021
Little Women | ★★★★ | November 2021
Cratchit | ★★★ | December 2021
Julie Madly Deeply | ★★★★ | December 2021
Another America | ★★★ | April 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | May 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | August 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | October 2022
Pickle | ★★★ | November 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews

Stitchers – 3.5 Stars



Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 1st June 2018


“an enlightening show from a talented and committed team”


Lady Anne Tree, who died in 2010, was an English aristocrat who became a prison visitor in 1949 after witnessing the devastating effect that a sentence had on a family friend. Having watched soldiers benefit from doing needlework, she wanted to introduce that skill into the prison system and spent three frustrating decades before finally getting government approval. She subsequently founded the Fine Cell Work charity which enables prisoners to build fulfilling and crime free lives by training them to do skilled and creative needlework. Based on Lady Anne Tree’s work, Esther Freud, herself a prison visitor, has written Stitchers allowing us to see up close a world of noise, violence and claustrophobia that few would choose to live in.

Upon entering the compact Jermyn Street Theatre, the audience is faced with an impressive set (Liz Cooke) that creates the feeling of being in a prison. When the lights come up on the opening scene, we experience an ear splitting cacophony of sound with cups and plates banging on the metal grid walls together with shouting, whistle blowing and doors slamming. It is an unpleasant introduction to prison life. When the sound finally subsides we see Lady Anne. It is the late 90s and complete with her bag of wool and material, she meets five prisoners whom we learn more about as the play progresses. Busby – a wheelchair bound repeat offender, Lukasz – a Polish hard man, Len – an ex army lifer, Tommy – a young and angry man on remand and Denise – a transgender woman on recall. The final character is Keith, a prison officer who on the surface is hardened by his years in the system but we see a softer side of him as he suffers domestic unhappiness. Each has a story of frustration and despair that is explored in detail.

Sinéad Cusack stars as Lady Anne. She is an experienced, accomplished actor and is perfect for the role. Many tickets will no doubt be bought by those who want to see her in a theatre where every seat is close to the stage. Michael Nardone is outstanding in his portrayal of Lukasz. He is able to show both the hard and soft side of the character and Ewan Stewart is a terrific warder. 

Whilst there are large number of scenes, director Gaby Dellal manages to keep the piece moving. The lighting (William Reynolds) perfectly accentuates the more sensitive moments whilst the sound (Max Pappenheim) is at times a little aggressive but the use of echo does work well recreating the noise of prison corridors.

Esther Freud is clearly a talented writer who understands her subject well and who should be proud of Stitchers. Overall this was an enlightening show from a talented and committed team.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Robert Workman



Jermyn Street Theatre until 23rd June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018


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