Adrian Jackson’s latest play brings to life the true life story of a paradise lost, that of the Chagos Islanders. Never heard of them? Until Wednesday night I’d not heard of them either. Adrian Jackson has written a play about the island and more importantly the islanders who were evicted.
It’s told from the viewpoint of Prosper a mental health patient trying to piece together his past and his memories of people and dogs. Linked into this are his counsellor and her marine biologist husband. As we journey through the history of the islands we are confronted with the injustice the British and Americans have done and also how conservation can also be used as a political tool.
I spoken before about my admiration for Cardboard Citizens and the work they do and I’ve enjoyed the previous productions of theirs I’ve seen (for reviews see, here and here) . I always come away from them having learnt something and with this production it was the same. Their skill is that it never comes across as “preachy” or like it’s meant to be “educational”. That’s because it’s told through the stories of people. This isn’t a play about issues, it’s a play about people.
The island references came thick and fast, but the story is certainly timely with the Falkland Islands being in the news again this week. The play makes the grim but important point that the Falklands are inhabited by white people and have possible oil reserves. Diago Garcia was inhabited by black people and had no oil, perhaps this is why the British were not so interested at the time?
The cast give good performances, I thought Ansu Kabia was a strong lead as Prosper. The rest of the cast play numerous characters, Sharon Duncan-Brewster was exceptional, movingly so as Madame Talate and then switching to the smarmy and manipulative politician Peter a few scenes later (as well as other roles throughout too). Nicholas Khan is one of the highlights of Act 2 with an uncanny impression of a well-known person (no I’ll not tell you who it is, you’ll have to go and see it, as I don’t want to ruin the surprise). Johanna Allitt gives a tender performance as the Counsellor trying to help Prosper and her Conservationist husband is shown to be struggling with the options of conservation of a reef and it’s species over the human rights of a group of people by Alasdair Craig. Tom Hodgkins and Josian Fauzou support the play well with their numerous roles.
Act 2 is certainly the stronger of the Acts, and I do feel the play could do with a bit of editing to tighten it up and increase the pace in certain scenes. I like the staging and use of projections that range from Mickey Mouse, to coral reefs, to Maggie Thatcher! I especially liked the floating fish (pictured above). There is a scene where the dialogue is via comments being posted on YouTube which I thought was a very contemporary way of conducting dialogue.
So I recommend going to the Riverside Studios and catching this interesting piece of theatre. You’ll come away having learnt more about the Chagos islanders and the islands history told in an entertaining and creative way.
STARS : * * * (and a half)