Outlying Islands

Reviewer's rating

A rather underwhelming revival of David Greig’s social drama. The philosophical questions addressed in the play are dealt with at a very shallow level and are repeatedly asked rather than evaluated. For example, the question of why humans fight wars and birds do not, reminds me of a school philosophy discussion, rather than an intriguing theatre piece.

Greig’s play is a peculiar one (as well as a long one – two and a half hours in total). Re-staging it is not an easy task, especially as the storyline might not be as relevant as it was twenty years ago. The repeated message – that humans commit crimes that animals do not – today seems naïve and is not adequately discussed.

Characters such as the repressed Catholic woman about to break free and the pathologically insensitive scientist may not be ideal examples for exploring what absolute isolation/freedom might do to people. It did not help that the acting itself felt stereotypical and ‘stagey’. None of the characters felt particularly natural in their movements.

Apart from the issues with the text, the staging could do with some changes. First of all, some members of the audience were blinded by the stage lights throughout the play and minor changes would have solved this. Further, space was used as a theatre-in-the-round. However, considering the size of the room, the actors were constantly blocking each other, even in significant scenes. This might have been intended to create a more intimate and natural feeling of space and to make the audience feel like pure observers. However, it ended up being messy and left me feeling displaced.

Overall, the production needs some additional work to make the most of a difficult play. The company Atticist took on a tricky task with Outlying Islands and unfortunately it does not show their usual potential (that was displayed in their production of Steven Berkoff’s EAST). Therefore, sadly only two stars for the show.