For the birds: Outlying Islands @KingsHeadThtr

Life on Outlying Islands at the Kings Head Theatre is for the birds. Or  what happens on a remote island should stay on the island. David Greig's play is having its first revival. Buffeted by storms, death and primal forces even four weeks can seem like an eternity. But time flies in this expertly acted and imaginatively realised production.

Set ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War, two young men travel to this remote Scottish island to conduct a survey of the birds for the government. But even in the summer months the harsh conditions, isolation and boredom make them turn inward.

One of them, John (Jack McMillan), is a proper man. And a Scotsman. The other, Robert (Tom Machell) is a crazy idealist from London. Together they develop a special bond. There's another man, Kirk (Ken Drury) who has leased the land to the government and giving them a place to stay in a deserted chapel on the island. Puritanical and in search of profit he see's their mission as a way to escape his harsh life. He also has a daughter, Ellen (Rose Wardlaw) whose withdrawn nature evolves into something else as the men continue with their work.

The cast work to keep this piece moving throughout. Observations about the wildlife in this remote outpost impact on their own behaviour. Characters become as exposed as the island's birds, to heartbreaking results.

It's an evocative production. It's as if you are in the middle of the Atlantic rather than at the back of a pub in Islington. Sound designer Christopher Preece has created a soundtrack full of bird screeches and swirling winds. Set designer Anna Lewis has created a landscape that feels battered and blown.

Presented by Atticist and directed by Jessica Lazar, Outlying Islands is at the Kings Head Theatre until 2 February.


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