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: