THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: The Unknown Island ★★★
The Unknown Island
The Gate Theatre, London
Tuesday 11th September - Sunday 7th October 2018
Based on Nobel prize-winning novelist Jose Saramago’s short story, The Tale of the Unknown Island, Clare Slater and Ellen McDougall’s 2018 adaption was staged within The Gate Theatre’s 75- seater intimate, to which was reconfigured to include it’s audience round all sides, mirroring the action later into the piece’s narrative when the ship’s crew, made of the productions collaborators Jon Foster, Hannah Ringham, Thalissa Teixeria, and Zubin Varia, set sail to search for ‘The Unknown Island’, a place which somehow must exist according to one of it’s crew, almost like the city of Atlantis.
Slater’s writing stops at nothing to cram in as much detail into the story for a short running time of just 55 minutes, and even though the audience must get a kick out of being offered wine, olives, and bread at one point, which most certainly goes on a little bit longer than needed, especially when those watching from the comfort of their own homes of void of the luxury, for a family production it doesn’t feel like there’s much enjoyment for the little ones; admittedly, the production does at times break out some party music and inflatable balloons for the collaborators to play with, but there is very little inclusion for the children, who must certainly should be a priority for a swash-buckling adventure that I’m sure they thought they were settling in for.
Rosie Elnile’s design contrasts the costumes to scenery perfectly however, with a flood of turquoise blue dominating from the ground to the ceiling, whilst minimal props such as a model ship and storage box in the centre helps the lack of too many big set pieces hindering the imagination from its audience. In terms of the script, some moments do appear to become a bit heavy on the theory of taking a boat off-shore, which certainly drags down the hilarity and fun that could be instead installed within its place, and could have must certainly done with perhaps a sing-along song with actions to entice it’s audience demographic back into the adventure.
Overall, whilst the cast deal nicely with the script that they are provided with, sadly there’s no real stand out moment in terms of character performance or story beat, in a production that sells itself as a mysterious and thrilling tale, but fails to deliver on taking it’s audience’s imagination and excitement along for the ride.
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