Philip Osment’s play has certainly stood the test of time and under Philip Wilson’s ardent direction is performed by a superb cast that are totally watchable and noteworthy. This Island’s Mine looks at the introduction of Section 28, the banning of positive representation of homosexuality, the rise of AIDS, what it is to be an outsider, refugee status, the fear of persecution, prejudice, police brutality and racial abuse – and is still all too resonant today. The cast play multiple roles with an ease and passion, offering lyrical interpretations of Osment’s words.
Theo Fraser Steele plays the roles of Martin, Stephen and Prospero, an incredible and heartfelt performance by Jane Bertish as Miss Rosenblum and her cat Valdamir, Corey Montague-Sholay as Welwyn and Dave, Rachel Summers as Jody, Madame Irina, Debbie and Wayne (whose capability of seeming to almost change her body shape as she performed each role was sensational), Rebecca Todd as Marianne, Maggie and Miranda, Tom Ross-Williams playing Mark also that of The Director and Frank and finally Connor Bannister playing the solo role of Luke. As they embraced each character, the cast totally captured the mood of Thatcher’s Britain, circa 1988. Using direct speech to the audience, the narrative of the play was made even stronger and compelling by the eloquence and elegant delivery of the set monologues.
There is a lot going on, especially as the storylines inevitably overlapped, and I was actually enthralled by the level of concentration required. This was a superb evening of pure first rate theatre. Absorbing and captivating.
But there was a great sadness to the evening as the producers, after the cast had taken their curtain calls, told the audience that they were very sorry to announce that Philip Osment had passed away that afternoon, Friday 24th May. The news seemed to give even more power to the production that we had just seen. Osment had managed to make it to the theatre, even though gravely ill, to see his work performed before he passed. His play is a wonderful, powerful and poignant look at gay life from three decades ago.