Edinburgh 2019: BWW Review: ISLANDER: A NEW MUSICAL, Summerhall
While Edinburgh may be a hub of activity at the best of times, not just August, Islander: A New Musical transports its audiences to the remote island of Kinnen. The piece of music theatre is part of the Made in Scotland 2018 showcase.
The enchanting narrative follows Eilidh (Bethany Tennick), a young girl who has chosen to continue with life on an island where investment is dwindling, and the future of her community is at stake. A stranger (Kirsty Findlay) washes ashore Eilidh's beach who becomes more mysterious as time goes on.
The two-hander is quite the impressive juggling act for Findlay and Tennick. Not only do they play multiple characters between them, but they themselves also create the vast majority of the sounds we hear through the use of loop pedals to create stunning soundscapes of the sea; radio jingles; the cacophony of a town meeting and more. The minimal set up upon entering the Roundabout tent is very misleading about what is to be experienced.
Finn Anderson's music and lyrics have rich descriptions of the land and waves, and a particular sequence brilliantly captures the frustration of video calling with a weak signal. The vocal performances by the duo blend beautifully and bring the story to life.
Tennick is incredibly endearing as the wistful and wide-eyed Eilidh, frustrated with her life and her family. Findlay is suitably mystical but is also a hoot as some of the more exaggerated characters on the local radio and also as Eilidh's gran.
Stuart Melton's book has a beautiful balance of wonder, tension and humour, with a particularly gripping storm sequence. It nails the small town, or small island, mentality from the radio announcements to the local politics. Lighting design by Simon Wilkinson bathes the roundabout tent in blue.
There are some really lovely tender moments between the pair be in the different relational dynamics within the show. The concrete trust they have built together each other to deliver the sounds and story through the technical set up is evident.
Islander: A New Musical is really something quite special. A smart hour of storytelling that captures the imagination.
Photo credit: Jazzy Earl