Jack Clover’s Island People is a sincere exploration of a sensitive and current issue, examining attitudes to immigration among local communities through honest insights into their personal lives and experiences. Chloe Wall directed a well-paced, colourful and thoughtful production in which the physical and multimedia elements worked well together, notwithstanding the play’s slight reliance on lengthy prose.
The acting was consistently strong, with Rebecca Hamilton and Joe Peden displaying impressive versatility in a range of roles as they switched between different characters on the island. In fact, no matter what the original reason for the multi-role play may have been, it definitely added something to the production; the island ‘community’ was a major focus of the play, and its insular nature and the fundamental parallels between very different characters were drawn out by this casting. A particularly moving monologue by Hamilton playing a bereaved mother had me almost in tears, while other lines drew laughs from the whole audience (think wetsuits and naan bread). Imogen Allen and Seamus Lavan set up a lovely rapport as the two principal characters, Allen taking on the challenge of starting the performance with great strength of presence, holding our attention from the very beginning with an extended direct address.
The passages of prose and the monologues were the most striking parts of the production, showing some really beautiful writing, though a couple of extended prose passages were a little lengthy – while the play hinged on the spoken elements, there could have perhaps been a little more room for more resonant physical and emotional expression that was slightly suffocated by language. While certain moments may have strayed a little into cliché, this didn’t detract from my emotional involvement with the real, human portrayals of believable characters. The playwright should be credited for achieving a highly moving climax to the play, all the while maintaining a grounding in a realistic story, and for a satisfying balance of comedy and depth. Overall, I would say it’s definitely worth going to see – Island People was funny, touching and poignantly relevant.