Islander: A New Musical at Southwark Playhouse
Following a winning performance at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, Islander: A New Musical is brought to Southwark Playhouse for an evening of spellbinding entertainment.
Within minutes, the audience is transported to the remote island of Kinnen where the residents are debating whether to stay or leave for the mainland after dwindling investment. The captivating narrative follows the story of Eilidh (Bethany Tennick), the only child living on the island, and others through amusing radio broadcasts, raucous town hall meetings and a community dance. Eilidh is dreaming of a bigger life for her Grandmother and herself when a whale calf and then a mysterious girl (Kirsty Findlay) wash up onto the shore, changing everything.
This two-woman tour de force is a marvellous juggling act for both Tennick and Findlay, as they bring to life Finn Anderson’s impressive Scottish-folk inspired score in perfect harmony through loop and pedal. From sea soundscapes to a breathing whale, from a leaking roof to a ringing phone, all sound in this production is created by the actors, which is an interesting act to watch in itself.
Tennick’s portrayal of wide-eyed Eilidh, eager to make friends and learn about the world, is brilliantly crafted. Findlay delivers different personalities and accents in the blink of an eye, switching between characters with astonishing ease. The synchronised unity between the two creates a flawless, ethereal performance.
There is no detail left neglected in this production. Even the costumes, which first appear simple and functional, mirror the earth and water tones of the two girls’ contrasting worlds. The small, dark and intimate space of the Playhouse is bathed in a changing light, serving to further envelop the spectator in the story. Director Amy Draper has created a beautifully minimalist musical with no need for great theatrics to bring the audience to great applause.
Moments of comedy (with a particular highlight being Findlay’s role as Eilidh’s Grandmother) are dispersed into the drama and politics of small island life. Theatregoers switch almost as often as the characters from transfixed gazes to laughter, to sombre expressions. This is a unique theatrical experience and not one to be missed.
Photo: Ali Wright
Islander: A New Musical is at Southwark Playhouse from 2nd until 26th October 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Islander: A New Musical here: