Friday 28 November 2014

Panorama of emotions in engrossing island thriller

Further Than the Furthest Thing
Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Sophie Gorman

Published 26/08/2008 | 00:00

"What is it about that black sand?" Hansen the entrepreneur asks, desperately trying to understand the hold a small remote volcanic island has over the natives.

They're a strange bunch, with their miniature democracy that harks back to the days of Beowulf, their delight in the enforced asceticism that geographical isolation brings -- penguin eggs are their haute cuisine -- and the denuded pidgin English in which they speak only in the present tense.

This doesn't just reflect their habit of hand-to-mouth living in the present, it's a way of masking the terrible things that have happened in the island in the past. When sea-storms and world war prevented the ships from bringing food and supplies, terrible sacrifices were made.

The mystery of what happened and how they survived is subtly developed, with finely tuned tension in this Hatch production of Zinnie Harris's play inspired by childhood years spent on that remote outcrop of the British Empire, Tristan da Cunha.

It's a darkly layered flower of many-petalled hints, unfolded by Annabelle Comyn at a leisurely but relentlessly gripping pace; and even when all the thriller-like questions are finally resolved, we're still left with the deeper mystery of the spell the island exerts.

It's a mystery beautifully evoked by Paul Keogan's lighting, in harmony with Philip Stewart's strategic use of music and sound, across a set as bare as the language of the characters.

The cast create a rich panorama of emotional depth: Michael Fitzgerald brings a surprising dignity to the naive Francis; Judith Roddy a matronly strength and decisiveness to her portrayal of the abused young Rebecca.

Enda Oates as the laconic island patriarch radiates suppressed force of character, while Fiona Bell is a delight as giddy, fragile, but durable Auntie Mill.

Peter Gaynor as the attractively shifty Hansen completes this engrossing drama of the relation between people and with the place that shapes and sustains them.

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