Carner & Gregor
A Hidden Island Gem
Island Song is a beautiful musical about modern age, big city living. From isolation and sorrow to friendships and oddity that comes from places like New York. The Hidden Theatre company definitely live up to their name: with a close cast of five, Island Song is easily tucked away in the tiny Nursery Theatre at Finsbury Avenue – the finding of which is its own experience of the confusion and chaos of big cities (especially when there’s construction work closing half the roads). But once you find it, you’re in for a night of hilarious, light entertainment with a grounded and mature soul.
Set in a minimal, constrained venue, the vibe of New York City is captured through subway soundscapes, hanging bulbs and characters rushing through the audience as if on their daily commute. Their voices overlap, scenes rushing into scenes, song into song – creating a full city of characters out of five cast members.
The songs are varied, very American in style and somewhat vocally challenging, and unfortunately that shows in the way the cast occasionally struggles to handle transitions between talking and singing. However, the cast harmonies are magical and the main Island Song, perfectly pulls together all the disparate threads for a chillingly good result.
Joshua Wills and Drou Constantinou have fantastic chemistry as a couple. Wills clear, melodic voice makes an interesting contrast with Constantinou’s smokey, rich tones – a contrast that is not always successfully harmonious during their duets. Abby Restall was a brilliant choice for Caroline, with a real sweetness to her voice and good grasp of melancholy, balanced well by Jack Anthony Smart with his brash, rash and yet ultimately deeply caring portrayal of Cooper.
The standout star, however, is Stephanie Lyse as Shoshana, who navigates the tragedy and comedy of Island Song with impeccable comic timing and a brilliant sense of humanity. Lyse weaves a undercurrent of deep pain and insecurity through her monologues, elevating them to a main feature of the play rather than merely a comic interlude.
Unfortunately, I spent the first half of the play unsure if the cast were trying to do American accents or if it was just happening irregularly because of the syntax of the lines. It’s a shame how off putting such a little thing can be, especially as English Americans would be less distracting than the accent slips.
It’s often easy for live music to drown out the vocals, especially in intimate spaces like The Nursery Theatre. Not so in this case. The band are incredible: perfectly balanced against the vocals. The drummer in particular stands out with her precision and brings an absolutely vital festivity to the music.
Island Song is an absolute pleasure to watch; hilarious, poignant and terrifyingly human. For the scale and scope of the project, it is terrific, and I would love to see the same team take on a bigger production.
Guest Review by Sonera Angel
Click for Tix:@Nursery Theatre
Time: 90 mins, No Interval
Running: 12 APR 18 ► 16 APR 18