Home » Reviews » Off West End » Outward Bound, Finborough Theatre

Outward Bound, Finborough Theatre

Sutton Vane
Directed by Louise Hill

Pros: Fringe theatre at its best, wonderful venue, fantastic acting and a completely engaging performance. Best fringe production we’ve seen. 

Cons: None worth mentioning.

Our Verdict: Superb. If you haven’t been to the Finborough before, then you’re missing out.

Courtesy of the Finborough Theatre

On Wednesday, one of my co-bloggers and I worked a normal 9-5 day. At 7pm, we met at the Finborough Theatre, our first visit to this much ballyhooed fringe venue, and proceeded to discuss how exhausted we both were. I’ve been working for 2 years, and my co-blogger has been working for about 4 months, and both of us are struggling to handle it. I honestly have no idea how I’m going to do it for the rest of my life – I’m 23, and all I want to do after a day at work is go home, eat pasta and go to bed. Surely that is not how it should be?!

Two and a half hours later however, all this had changed. I’ve seen a lot of fringe theatre before, but Outward Bound, the Finborough’s new production of Sutton Vane’s play, was easily the best fringe production I have ever seen. Within seconds of it starting, I was wide awake and completely gripped – the acting, the set, the space – it was all outrageously good. 
Alex Marker’s superb set impressed me from the moment I walked into the space. Using the natural curve of the theatre’s walls, Marker’s set creates a perfect bar inside the cabin of a boat, complete with portholes. Members of the audience also sit on stage around the sides of the performance space as well as in a normal end-on position, a clever device that helped make the experience feel more intimate and intense. The quality of the design immediately set the production apart from other fringe productions I have seen, and was already starting to understand why people rave about the Finborough.
Things only got better when the production started. Vane’s script is pretty gripping stuff, and it’s easy to see why it was such a success during its time. We soon discover that the boat is in fact something akin to purgatory – this worried me to start with because I do not respond well to overly preachy productions of any kind. However, it stays on the right side of the line, and I found myself fully engaging with a production that was intense, humorous and occasionally very moving.
The strong script was of course brought to life by an extremely talented ensemble. There really wasn’t a weak link; Nicholas Karimi delivered a particularly strong performance as the well-meaning but weak-minded alcoholic Tom Prior, and Derek Howard was superb as the blustering and self-obsessed Mr Lingley. Ursula Mohan’s portrayal of the kind-hearted Mrs Midget is also worth a mention as the character which many in the audience would have found easiest to connect with. In such a small space, individual performances are really put under the microscope, but not one was found wanting.
Weaknesses? Hardly any. In fact the only one that I can think of was that the final sound effect of an eerie beating drum cut out rather abruptly at the end of the performance, which ruined the atmosphere of suspense somewhat. However I saw this on its second preview, so I am hoping that this was a crease which can be ironed out for the rest of the run. 
I enjoyed the fringe production of Artiface’s Measure for Measure that I saw a couple of weeks ago in Kennington. However this production was really in a different league. This is fringe theatre at its very best, and it was everything that I was hoping it would be – a wonderfully intimate venue and a faultless performance of a play which I had never heard of. Is it really worth five stars? I think so – this was an evening that I enjoyed as much as an evening at the National, and at £9 for a preview ticket (£13 from now onwards) it is excellent value. One thing is for certain: the Finborough Theatre has two new fans, and I’m already looking forward to seeing my next show there.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Outward Bound runs at the Finborough Theatre until 25th February 2012.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at  http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2012/production-outward-bound.php

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