The Unknown Island adapted from a short story by José Saramago, Gate Theatre, 29 September 2017

Ellen McDougall is the new artistic director of The Gate and this production is a great start to her role.

Based on The Tale Of The Unknown Island, an allegorical short story by Portugese writer José Saramago, four actors enact the piece. It is a very simple story with many-layered themes; to some extent the unknown island is an individual’s capacity to explore personal horizons, to some extent it is an allegorical tale about bureaucracy, leadership, power and colonialism.

Sounds heavy but honestly it isn’t. It is a one hour piece full of fun and little coups de theatre. There’s even a tiny bit of audience participation…but not of the “embarrassing pick on one person” kind.

Here is a link to The Gate’s resource on the play/production. The production has deservedly had superb reviews, links to which can be found in this resource, saving me the trouble.

Janie and I thought we were the oldest people in the audience…

…turns out I had inadvertently booked for “Young People’s Night” – it was simply the only Friday evening we were available!

Still, we are young at heart.

There was a short Q&A session after the show for Young People’s Night. As we were honorary young folk by then, Janie and I stayed on, finding the discussion interesting.

But back to the play/production – it is most certainly well worth seeing; for the story, for the production and for the quality of the performances, all four performers being excellent.

At the time of writing (the next morning), this production still has a week to run; Janie and I would thoroughly recommend it. Hopefully the piece will transfer and allow a wider audience to enjoy this thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable production.

The Rolling Stone by Chris Urch, Orange Tree Theatre, 16 January 2016

We seem fated to sit next to the luvvies this year. Last week Daisy ended up with Benedict Wong sitting next to her at The Royal Court. Then earlier this week, she took a call from the Orange Tree , to see if we minded shifting up one seat on our row to make space for an actors’ seat. I’m not sure what would have happened if we had refused this request. Anyway, I ended up with half the cast sitting next to me at one time or another (not all at the same time).

Don’t let the jovial start to this posting deceive you. This was another bleak piece about troubled people in a troubled place. This time the place is Uganda and the story is basically that of a young man who gets himself and his religious family caught up in the persecution of gay people. At no point in the play would you sensibly anticipate a happy ending.

The play has won awards and is another of Paul Miller’s canny transfers from Royal Exchange Manchester, where it was deservedly very well received – see synopsis, reviews from Manchester (presumably, eventually, also from Richmond – we attended the last Oraneg Tree Preview), cast and creative credits here.

This is only Chris Urch’s second play, so his is certainly a name to look out for in future.

The title, The Rolling Stone, refers to a newspaper in Uganda that acts as a focal point for persecution by naming and shaming homosexuals.  You’d need a heart of stone not to be moved by this production and the real life plight of gay people in Uganda (and indeed many parts of the world), which this play puts under the spotlight.