Tax havens: they’re a subject very much on people’s minds at the moment. The government is coming under fire for not closing loopholes and big businesses are under renewed pressure to be more and more transparent.
Into this climate comes Caroline Horton’s Islands, a rollocking, shambolic party of a show, with drag, clownish fat suits and gunge. Supposedly we’re all on a (flying) private island called Haven, having a whale of a time floating 30 feet above “shit world”, lorded over by Caroline as megalomaniacal Mary.
She sucks in “ordinary people” Adam and Eve to be part of her island and, it seems, do all the work for her while she does “management by wandering about”. When they start to rebel, Eve is kicked off the island back down to shit world, and Adam is coerced into joining the party rather than face the same fate. Eve stirs up trouble back on shit world, causing Haven to indulge in some hasty PR measures to ensure the masses don’t drag them back down to earth.
The show is performed with all the characters in a mixture of drag, fat suits and heavy make-up. While this is great for the bad guys and the maniacal Mary, without any sort of human connection to Adam or Eve, the audience are left without a character to really sympathise with. Horton’s point may be that ordinary people are just as susceptible to Mary’s line in fantasies and therefore just as contemptible. However, without any real central character to the show, it feels very direction-less and sloppy throughout the first half. The second half improves slightly – there are more jokes, the corruption of Adam is quite fun to watch, and we can start to look forward to the downfall of Mary and her obnoxious cronies.
Overall though, the show is incredibly difficult to warm to. Its consistently brash tone is grating, the politics are fairly obvious as soon as we start to understand what is going on, and there simply isn’t enough comedy to make this car-crash-style show worthwhile. While there are some very striking moments throughout (the final song especially) this show is consistently difficult to enjoy.
At the Bush Theatre until 21st February
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