Tag Archives: Robbie Butler



Southwark Playhouse



Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 4th October 2019



“a vibrant collage of the new and old, created by enchanting layered sound and stories that ignite the imagination”


Islander: A New Musical, which has a short run at the Southwark Playhouse this month, having transferred from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is a new Scottish folktale about a breakaway island which drifts across oceans, following (or attending) the whales of the sea.

Eilidh (Bethany Tennick) cares for her jokey gran on the remote Scottish Island of Kinnen. While she struggles with a personal resentment towards her mother who left her to find work on the mainland, there is disquiet spreading across the island. Habitual concerns of a gnome gone missing and who is going to the local dance, are overshadowed. There will be a vote: sacrifice their home and head to the mainland or stay and struggle with the dearth of public services and jobs. Troubled times bring unusual events: Eilidh discovers a beached whale and then a mysterious washed-up girl called Arran whose tales of her mythical land, hidden in the mist, test Eilidh’s faith and help her find her way.

The story, written by Stewart Melton with lyrics by Finn Anderson is exquisite. With personification and repetition, the land becomes alive with “angry clouds” and its “earth-moving roar” creating a folkloric flavour. The power of the land and sea accrues with blue and turquoise lighting (Simon Wilkinson) which occasionally washes over the stage and the simple earth coloured costumes of the two-person cast. Harsher red and white lighting herald modern machinery, such as when we tune in to the radio, or tense human relationships such as the fast-paced dialogue between mother and daughter, which sees the magic surrender to harsh reality. Through this plainer lens, we realise how easy it is to lose faith in the mysterious.

Bethany Tennick plays a heart-warming Eilidh as well as a host of other characters, along with Kirsty Findlay, whose roles include Arran, who she plays with a beautiful innocence, and mischievous gran with her strong local accent. The two perform a perfect medley of synchronised movement and shared dialogue, conceived and directed by Amy Draper, which makes for a rich performance about friendship. Mid-song, a brief smile passes between the two revealing their shared enjoyment of performing this charming piece. It is rare but heart-warming to see a self-referential moment like this on stage.

The highlight of the performance are the soundscapes, created by two voices and loop-pedals to imbue a mystic atmosphere and create beautiful harmonies in the musical score as well as natural sounds. The set is somewhat lacking but instead the space is filled with a charged energy and the audience is completely transported. One of my favourite soundscapes is the tapping of fingernails on the microphone, creating a patter of rain on the run-down school roof.

Islander: A New Musical is a vibrant collage of the new and old, created by enchanting layered sound and stories that ignite the imagination: a re-imagined myth with undertones of current issues.


Reviewed by Amy Faulkner

Photography by Jassy Earl



Southwark Playhouse until 26th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Billy Bishop Goes To War | ★★★ | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Other People’s Money | ★★★ | April 2019
Oneness | ★★★ | May 2019
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Afterglow | ★★★½ | June 2019
Fiver | ★★★★ | July 2019
Dogfight | ★★★★ | August 2019
Once On This Island | ★★★ | August 2019
Preludes | ★★★★ | September 2019


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Sex / Crime – 4 Stars


Sex / Crime

The Glory

Reviewed – 12th April 2018


“a fascinating and well-crafted insight”


In a “lovely basement” (correction: “lovely dungeon”) B has paid A a large of amount of money to recreate one of the famous gay serial killer’s murders, with B as the victim. “I’m going to hurt you,” promises A. “Promise me you’ll make me forget who I am,” retorts B. B has a pain threshold of eight and three quarters and has taken all his drugs on the bus. He is not only a fan of the gay serial killer but “an admirer” and he knows every case in perfect detail. But A has insider knowledge. However expectations collide and the two have to decide how far they are willing to go. As the situation simmers, the session makes a U-turn.

This play is a fascinating and well-crafted insight into a taboo part of the fetish scene, questioning the boundaries between pleasure and pain and revealing the extremities of sado-masochism. It is a nuanced and non-stereotyped approach, which deals in real people and real desires without judgement, whilst still delivering a dramatic and intelligent narrative structure. Alexis Gregory’s writing is darkly funny, and successfully addresses his focuses for this show, fetishisation and ‘gay’ serial killers – “we never say ‘heterosexual serial killers’ do we?” asks Gregory in the programme.

Both Alexis Gregory (also the playwright) as B and Jonny Woo as A, deliver fantastic performances. Gregory has a manic energy onstage, somehow infectiously likeable. There is a wonderful juxtaposition between his excitement and the context in which we find him. Woo is cold, professional and apparently impenetrable. They play off each other fantastically, antitheses of each other in many ways, the balance of power tipping between them in a delicate build of tension.

There is a stylised quality to Gregory’s writing style, which works fantastically in the first half of the play but makes the empathy necessary in the second part harder to muster as an audience member. The play lags at this point as a result of this and the change lacks some believability, and the underlying darkness could have been pushed further at this middle point.

The set (Robbie Butler) is wrapped in white plastic and littered with implements of pain and/or pleasure, hammers and full syringes, and is enhanced by Mike Robertson’s lighting design, which reinvents the space over and over as time passes. With loud sounds punctuating sudden blackouts, the violence is well done – not shied away from, but also not gratuitous.

This is a well crafted, well written piece about a topic that is frequently categorised as taboo, delivered by two excellent performers.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Jane Hobson


The Glory London

Sex / Crime

The Glory until 28th April


Also directed by Robert Chevara
Vincent River | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2018


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