Review: Mediocre White Male, King's Head Theatre - a gradual shift makes a powerful point
Review: BLACK SUPERHERO, Royal Court - witty, sharp and entertaining but not the sum of all its parts

Review: Further Than The Furthest Thing,Young Vic - charmed by island life but questions remain

08. Cyril Nri and Kirsty Rider in Further than the Furthest Thing at Young Vic (c) Marc Brenner
Cyril Nri and Kirsty Rider in Further than the Furthest Thing at Young Vic March 2023. Photo:(c) Marc Brenner

In Shakespeare's Island play The Tempest, Caliban says: "Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises" should the inhabitants of the remote Atlantic island in Zinnie Harris' play be afraid of the noise under the water or something else?

The noise is undoubtedly distracting Bill (Cyril Nri) from the arrival home of nephew Francis (Archie Madekwe), who has been off-island in Cape Town for months. But Bill does seem to have a demeanour of general anxiety and mild panic - is it a result of past events?

Based loosely on actual events on Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island in the world, the island of the play offers a simple life where everyone has a patch of land and subsists on what they grow or catch, plus what supplies the occasional boat brings.

Francis' return from Cape Town is an exciting time for his Aunt Mill (Jenna Russell), it's an opportunity to tell him about all the things he's missed, and maybe he's brought some sugar.

The inhabitants have a particular way of speaking with a mixture of accents, there's Scottish, Irish and West Country in there: "How can an h'egg be as bad luck?"

It is both familiar and strange, the people quaint - but theirs is a peculiar life, mostly cut off from the rest of the world.

Francis doesn't bring sugar back to the island,  he brings a stranger, Mr Hansen (Gerald Kyd), a South African businessman who can do sleight-of-hand magic tricks. He wants to build a factory.

03. Jenna Russell in Further than the Furthest Thing at Young Vic (c) Marc Brenner
Jenna Russell in Further than the Furthest Thing at Young Vic, March 2023. Photo (c) Marc Brenner

The tempest of this story isn't the disruption of an outsider, as you might expect, although there is an element of that, it is more complex as the community becomes displaced by a volcano eruption - as happened to the real Tristan community.

Set up working in Hansen's factory, there is a strong pull for the community to return to the island. Are they homesick or trying to hide something from the outside world?

Performed in the round with a slow revolve, the island is given a voice through vocalist Shapla Salique. Shapes and textures are projected onto the stage, but it comes in waves, it's atmospheric and strange, haunting with a hint of malevolence - a sort of siren call.

It contrasts starkly with the pottering-about, ordinary-ness of the islanders. Hansen's is the only magic, there is no Prospero or Ariel, the island is a charm in itself despite the dangers of living in such an isolated spot.

The first half is a slow burn, bordering on too slow, but the second half explodes with a revelation. But ultimately, the play left me with questions; is it about the corrupting power of capitalism, or is it about the lengths humans will go to survive? Does it set out to simultaneously shatter the ideal of island life and more conventional commercial society?

It's getting ⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me.

Further Than The Furthest Thing, Young Vic Theatre

Written by Zinnie Harris

Directed by Jennifer Tang

Running time 2 hours and 35 minutes, including an interval

Booking until 25 April, visit the Young Vic website for more information and to book.

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