Tag Archives: Rachel Summers

This Island’s Mine
★★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

This Island's Mine

This Island’s Mine

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 17th May 2019

★★★★★

 

“Constantly on the move, they change their characters as quickly as they move around and into the Chinese box like set”

 

What do you do when your country’s politicians take a backwards step and pass something like Section 28 as Britain did in 1988? You take a heartwarming, poetic drama like This Island’s Mine, and produce it for the iconic Gay Sweatshop. Philip Osment’s mostly uplifting drama, filled with positive affirmations of gay life, was a revelation for audiences then and deservedly so. It’s a treat to see the Ardent Theatre Company, under the skilful direction of Philip Wilson, revive it in 2019.

This Island’s Mine — the title taken from Shakespeare’s Tempest, the words spoken by Caliban — follows the stories of a disparate group of people who, for one compelling reason or another, wash up, or are washed up, on the shores of not so swinging London. It is the 1980s after all. There are eighteen characters (including the cat, Vladimir) and in this production, they are seamlessly performed by a talented ensemble cast of seven. Every audience member will have their favorite characters, but the play begins and ends with Connor Bannister’s sweet and eager Luke. Luke is a seventeen year old growing up in an economically devastated north, knowing he is gay, but not knowing how to tell his friends and family.

Osment’s play gives the actors plenty to do. Constantly on the move, they change their characters as quickly as they move around and into the Chinese box like set (design by Philip Wilson) that opens enchantingly to show interior scenes of tender intimacy. Whether it’s Luke’s Uncle Martin, played with just the right amount of world weary charm by Theo Fraser Steele, or watching Tom Ross-Williams shift effortlessly between Londoner Mark and northerner Frank, or Rebecca Todd slip from American Marianne to Shakespeare’s Miranda, we are drawn to these characters and their struggles.

Corey Montague-Sholay impresses with his sensitive but steely Selwyn, a black gay actor who grows up thinking he “was the only one/Who’d been letting the side down.” On top of that, he hilariously shape-shifts into Dave, the ten year old son of Marianne’s lover, Debbie. Rachel Summers takes on four roles, an incredible range of female (and male) characters including a North Carolina African-American and a refugee Russian princess, and then there is the always marvellous Jane Bertish holding the audience spellbound whether she is Miss Rosenblum, struggling to survive after fleeing Nazi Austria, or Vladimir, Princess Irina’s indulged and equally aristocratic cat.

This Island’s Mine at the King’s Head Theatre is a triumph. See it if you can.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Mark Douet

 


This Island’s Mine

King’s Head Theatre until 8th June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Momma Golda | ★★★ | November 2018
The Crumple Zone | ★★ | November 2018
Outlying Islands | ★★★★ | January 2019
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Dare to Do (The Bear Maxim) -2.5 Stars

Maxim

Dare to Do (The Bear Maxim)

The Space

Reviewed – 30th May 2018

★★½

“Unfortunately the production falls short of its potential”

 

They call him ‘The Bear’. In the world of finance he is unafraid to take risks, a giant on the 65th floor where the higher the elevator takes you is a clear indicator of status, “the black boy from Tottenham who took on the city”, Bear says of himself. But when he is let go by the firm because “my face doesn’t fit” his life spirals desperately back down, and soon he is transferring the rules of the finance world to the streets of London. An acute commentary on racism within the world of finance, as well as a scathing observation of a world and a people obsessed by money, this should’ve been a topical and moving story. Unfortunately the production falls short of its potential.

Mark Norfolk’s writing moves between conversation-based realism and spoken word, but the poetry is not brought out in the characters’ delivery. The rhythm and pace required of this style of writing is lacking, and moments of humour in the script are often lost in performance. Moments of uncertainty jar the performance – hesitations as lines are nearly forgotten that affect the production’s flow for example, but this is likely to be ironed out as the run continues.

The set (Alfie Heywood) is basic but functioning, but the lighting (Chuma Emembolu) is bizarrely literal at points and a more subtle design would’ve better complimented the space. The projections on the back wall could have been used more as they work really well, but needed to be more regularly integrated into the production as a whole to create a more coherent piece. At the same time, the projections are sometimes at odds with what the actors are saying and details such as unrealistic typing mean a certain slickness is lacking from the production.

To its credit, this production is an exemplar of gender blind casting. Bear is played by Jaye Ella-Ruth who is consistently convincing, portraying cut-throat trader alongside adoring husband and father, propelled forwards by an impressive tenacity and self-belief. Greater investigation into the emotional depth of the Bear’s character would aid this portrayal. I think this comes back to a question of pace. Where the spoken word moments require a greater rhythm and drive forwards, Bear’s emotional moments require more space around them, a moment to breathe. Bear carries the play, joined by actors rotating parts – a predominantly competent and supportive cast.

This is a script filled with potential and a production that is trying to do some really interesting, but it falls unfortunately short of where it is aiming to reach.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

 


Dare to Do (The Bear Maxim)

The Space until June 9th

 

Related
Previously reviewed at this venue
One Festival 2018 | ★★★ | January 2018
The Sleeper | ★★★ | April 2018
Citizen | ★★★★ | April 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com