Rounstabout Theatre’s production, touring to both theatres and schools, presents a performance that is aimed predominantly at Key Stage 2 to 4 audiences, although as I can testify, it is suitable for an older audience as well. The play, an extension of The Tempest, is transposed into the modern day, its characters now five years on from where Shakespeare’s original play ended. Through both song and straight speech, the company of three tell a moving, enjoyable and provocative story that asks us where is it that we choose to call home. It is a story which left me in deep thought for the rest of the day.
Director and Writer Toby Hulse brings together a marvellously rounded piece. Under his direction, his three actors work strongly as an ensemble. The play is quite stylised at times, whether through the use of the set or its announcement of each scene’s title. This only helps add to the story itself, and so in turn the thoughts behind it sing stronger and truer. Maria Terry’s design is also a key component to the whole, the basic elements really help to transport you to a far-off island.
The three strong cast, Kesty Morrison, Robin Hemmings and Eleanor Pead, are born storytellers, an element present the entire time. The choice to keep house lights up throughout further highlights their intent to fully engage with their audience. Hemmings, as Caliban, holds the audience in the palm of his hand with his intense eye-contact and animated face. Through both his character and performance style the audience is utterly captivated and he seems to have that sixth sense on the stage that almost makes you want to join in.
It’s the moments of songs that are most joyous. During short interludes between scenes, the music picks out a theme from what we had just witnessed, giving the audience something more to ponder upon. This becomes particularly key at the very end when the closing song calls upon the audience to ask themselves when the action of the play is taking place, and if it is now, why?
The one thing that I felt uncertain of as I was leaving is what the play was truly ‘saying’. As a piece of theatre exploring, set in and being performed to a post-colonial world I felt that it wasn’t made crystal clear where its standpoint is. The ending just didn’t seem to tie everything up in regard to whose island it really is. Reading the programme notes suggests this may have been intentional but in tackling such an emotive topic, especially in the present climate, it did seem that loose ends and questions still remained when maybe they shouldn’t? The portrayal of Stephano particularly, in my opinion, could have been more boastful and dismissive. However, I guess this just adds to the thought-provoking element and allows for great discussion for parents and children on the way home.
Small issues aside, This Island’s Mine is an incredibly strong and enjoyable piece of storytelling, not just for those in Key Stages 2 to 4, but for those, like myself, who are beyond those school age years.
Written and Directed by: Toby Hulse
Produced by: Shaelee Rooke and Alice Massey for Roustabout Theatre
This Island’s Mine is currently touring until 7 November. Further information, including tour dates, can be found via the below link.