Outlying Islands - Review

The summer of 1939 sees John and Robert on a remote and almost uninhabited Scottish island. They are there ostensibly to study and record the bird life for their Government Department.

Through their dealings with the island's owner, Kirk, they learn that their masters have a more sinister use for the island – a use that disturbs Robert and leads to violence and tragedy.

The arrival of the two men disturbs more than the birds. It arouses in Ellen, Kirk's niece, a sexual awakening.

There is also humour amongst the play's dark tones with one scene featuring the funniest funeral service ever.

I have to be honest and state that it took me a while to warm to the play and it was not until towards the end of the first act did the play begin to grip. In part it was due to the writing that at times was slightly overblown and irritating.

The main problem was that I found myself distracted by the acting of Matt Lea, as Robert. I accept that the character was a controlling oddball but Matt's physical interpretation was extreme. With eyes constantly bulging and exaggerated body movements it was like watching the acting style of the silent movies.
It was hard to relate to him. A more naturalistic performance was needed and the two directors, Nicholas Richards and Calolm MacGregor, should have helped him to achieve this.

Lionel Clark, as Kirk, gave a good performance despite being saddled by some repetitive lines. He must be commended for the control he exercised when having to lie on stage for so long after dying.

But it was Aimee Laura's delicate portrayal of Ellen that stood out as she took the character from a shy feyness to a bold sexuality. Some of the best moments in the play were the interplay between her and the equally virginal John. Credit for this must also be given to Andy Thomas for capturing the several facets of a gauche and decent man.

Barrie Jerram
10 December 2006