Review: Great Island (Beside Ourselves Productions)

besideourselves1Venue: 107 Projects (Redfern NSW), Jul 29 – Aug 9, 2015
Playwright: Pierce Wilcox (after Pierre de Marivaux’s L’Île des esclaves)
Director: Pierce Wilcox
Cast:  Anna Chase, Rob Johnson, Harrison Milas, Eleni Schumacher, Nicholas Starte
Image by Isabella Andronos

Theatre review
Absurdity is often used on stage to communicate ideas of a political nature. The exaggeration of circumstances helps us understand forces at work in society that might be too guileful for our anesthetized senses. Pierce Wilcox’s Great Island discusses capitalism through a series of very broad comedy sequences that sees very energetic and inventive performances, and although mirthful in general, its obscure humour delivers few laughs, and only ambiguous meaning can be derived from its wild constructs. Nevertheless, the work remains a fascinating one with a mischievous edge that keeps viewers engaged.

Although not uniformly strong, the cast of five is a spirited one that has a surprisingly cohesive approach to the material at hand. Nicholas Starte plays the King with a disciplined command of physicality and voice, and an easy confidence that endears him to the crowd. The actor has a natural eccentricity that suits the style of the production, and a cheeky effervescence that many will find impressive. Also accomplished is Rob Johnson who brings a necessary polish to the chaotic stage, and a conviction that gives a dimension of gravity to the show’s themes. It is not an easy task elevating a piece that has a tendency to come across frivolous, but the team’s commitment is evident.

Discussions about alternatives to capitalism are always interesting. None of us can escape the economy’s influence, and we should all participate in finding solutions to flaws that inevitably arise in any socio-political environment. There has never been a perfect system that satisfies every community it manages, and all we can do is to find refinement and improvement at every available opportunity. There is good promise at Great Island, but it reveals that we are still at primitive stages in the evolutionary process.