‘A real sense of isolation & claustrophobia’: OUTLYING ISLANDS – King’s Head Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Shanine SalmonLeave a Comment

King’s Head Theatre, London – 2 February 2019

David Grieg’s play about an uninhabited outer Hebrides island doesn’t know whether it wants to be a political thriller, based on the true story of Gruinard Island which was contaminated with anthrax during the Second World War, or a romantic love triangle between two researchers; John, a young and innocent man from Edinburgh (Jack McMillan) and Tom Machell as Robert, with an eye for the girls that leads itself to occasional misogyny that masks his general misanthropy sent by ‘The Ministry’ who believe they are there to study the birds native to the island and a local girl Ellen (Rose Wardlaw), who after the death of her parents has been sheltered from civilisation and her love of the cinema from her uncle Kirk (Ken Drury)

One of the issues with the script is that a highpoint of drama and conflict happens too early on and it struggles to recover despite the excellent performances from all four actors. It fails to clarify how deep and meaningful the friendship between Jack and Robert is, why they have undertaken this mission to catalogue the birds on this uninhabited island with minimal access to food and rations. So when Ellen comes between them it is hard for me to muster up the ability to care; it is unlikely these people will see each other again and it means the emotional impact of the ending loses its touch.

The strength in the production is Anna Lewis’ set and costumes (her programme notes on what inspired her are very interested) with the only colour coming from David Doyle’s lighting as set and costume are drab monochromes and browns. There is a real sense of isolation and claustrophobia in Jessica Lazar’s direction with the production set in one tiny, damp chapel or on the clifftops where characters go and reveal the thoughts they have and hope they are alone.

I particularly enjoyed McMillan as John, a man who chooses reading over films and struggles to fit in with film and life loving Robert and Ellen. Machell as Robert brings a real sinister edge to a character you feel will be comic relief, he chooses birds over animals every time and his failure to understand why this island and its wildlife has been chosen leads to extreme action towards Drury’s Kirk, a man with little love for the island who is looking to make a quick buck from ‘The Ministry’. Wardell as naïve Ellen brings an understanding to being young and lonely, she is keen to escape the island and always has been putting her hopes into these strangers to take her away. It is a strong production of a play that seems unsure which story it wants to tell.

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Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.
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Shanine Salmon on RssShanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.

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