Imagine, if you will, the year being 1939, the eve of World War Two. Two young ornithologists have been ordered by ‘the Ministry’ to conduct a study of the bird population on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides. For this study they must spend four weeks on an isolated island, 40 miles away from the nearest inhabited island, with no radio and no boat. They have only each other for company, and the island’s leaseholder and his niece.
What only the darkest imagination can imagine, will happen.
Atticist’s revival of David Grieg’s Outlying Islands is a powerful, intimate journey of the human psyche as it transforms and transcends through the challenges of life. Isolated and alone, instinctual forces come to the fore as societal norms are tested, tried and thrown out.
We watch, as they watch. And for the duration of the performance we are immersed and believe ourselves to be there – to be a fly on the wall of this multi-layered exploration of life. It is an incredibly atmospheric and intimate production which showcases the importance of behind the scenes talent (Jessica Lazar, Anna Lewis, David Doyle, and Christopher Preece) in creating such a mesmerising show.
And as we watch, the characters take hold, transform and transfix us. Lovable, hateful, passionate, vulnerable – they have everything and more that any audience could wish for - and as the wild power of the island seeps further into their souls, we watch agog at their unfurling. John’s (Jack McMillan) sexual repression and observance of moral duty is pitted against Robert’s (Tom Machell) flagrant disregard for societal norms, while the parasitic endeavours of the leaseholder Kirk (Ken Drury) is a comical nod to the pursuit of capital. But perhaps the most powerful transformation is that of Ellen (Rose Wardlaw), the claw-handed, eczema-riddled, shy, servant girl of a niece to a forcefully awoken sexual being heralding the true story of the island.
With twinges of Lord of the Flies and a dash of D.H. Lawrence this is a potent, intoxicating play that takes hold of the audience, clutches you tight, wrings you out and makes you stand back in awe.
Reviewer: Samantha Collett
Reviewed: 15th January 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★★