Some might say that the ‘stranded-on-a-desert-island’ idea has become rather hackneyed over the years. Don’t get me wrong, you can of course expect some of the usual Lord of the Flies markers from Tom Basden’s Holes, though the difference here is that we’ve been allowed to laugh at this version of the classic castaway plot.
The comedy element doesn’t really come from the horrendous events that saw these four characters stranded on the island (that really would be in quite bad taste after the recent Malaysian Airlines tragedy), but rather from characters themselves. The personalities featured are that of three co-workers en route to Australia for a conference and a teenager whose parents died in the crash. What makes them so convincing (not to mention hilarious) is the fact that they are so familiar to most of us. For example, everyone knows a ‘Marie’ (played here by Elizabeth Berrington) a superficial attention seeker who hides her insecurities under a veil of self importance and demonstrates said importance by shamelessly bossing around the younger, prettier though weaker Erin (Sharon Singh). Everyone knows a ‘Gus’ (BAFTA nominated Mathew Baynton) the seemingly ‘normal one’ who spends more time rolling his eyes at the people around him than actually helping. But it was Daniel Rigby who stole the show with a flawless performance and spot on comedic timing as Ian – the overbearing office idiot whose ridiculously grandiose survival ideas continued to extract laughter all the way through to the rather bleak end. And it is a bleak end. And a bleak middle…and a bleak beginning come to think of it. In fact the whole plot uses comedy to disguise a very dark undercurrent of death and desperation that you would expect from this genre.
The Arcola Tent in Dalston is the perfect venue for this simple production. It’s not the most comfortable of places to sit still for a couple of hours; it’s too hot and the chairs are awful, but the shape of the room means that you can sit anywhere and still have a wonderful view of the giant sand pit stage. And what better circumstances to sit in sweltering humidity than to watch a play set on a remote tropical island? It certainly added to the sense of authenticity.
What you can expect from this production is to come away feeling as though you need to see it again, just to clarify what it is you’ve just witnessed. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? Or a tragedy under the guise of a comedy? This feeling is really rather fitting, as it seems the whole storyline focuses on the way in which we try to categories things in order to make sense of them. The three co-workers being employed by a demographics agency only adds to the sense that the desert island fantasy has once again been used as a means to explore the different elements of our human nature and indeed the roles we take in extreme situations. Think ‘Lost’ meets ‘The Office’ and you’ll get the gist. The quality of the acting was what bumped up the plays credibility and really built the connection between the audience and the stage. Definitely worth a watch.
- By Tom Basden
- Director: Phillip Breen
- Cast: Mathew Baynton, Daniel Rugby, Elizabeth Berrington, Sharon Singh
- Arcola Theatre, London
- Until 9th August 2014
- Time: 19.45
- Review by Jo Cheroomi
- 22nd July 2014