A chaotic and laugh-out-loud evening.
Described as “The Office meets Lord of the Flies meets Miranda”, Sheila’s Island has landed in Southampton.
The scene is set with a simple yet strikingly effective stage design, complete right down to a body of water for the lake, as Sheila, Denise, Julie and Fay embark on their annual company team-building weekend. What was supposed to be a day of adventure followed by a weekend of teamwork and bonfire night quickly falls into chaos when their canoe sinks, and they find themselves stranded on a remote island.
Despite having changes of clothes, for the most part, a single mobile phone with limited signal, and a backpack that contains everything but the kitchen sink, these four colleagues have no food and even fewer skills for the outdoors. What could possibly go wrong?
Written by Tim Firth of Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots, Sheila’s Island had the audience laughing and the cast soaked as soon as the curtain went up. The comedy was particularly Miranda/The Office-esque, however, at times left us wanting more fits of giggles. At some points, there were a few too many long gaps between jokes, and it kept hinting at deeper issues of mental health that perhaps left the audience feeling a little uncomfortable as to what they should be feeling. I appreciate the depth that this attempted to bring, however, I think it was more suited to continuing the jokes as opposed to delving into harder themes.
Despite this, the women of this show seriously made it come to life. First and foremost, the dedication of the actresses must be highlighted, as within the first five minutes they had already changed their costume on stage, right down to their bras and knickers. The four characters demonstrated a variety of personalities: Fay (Sara Crowe) provides great comedic relief as the one that’s not 100% with it; Sheila (Judy Flynn) attempts to hold the team together despite it all; Denise (Abigail Thaw) is the uptight one of the group, constantly cracking jokes at the other’s expense and Julie (Rina Fatania) is quite frankly responsible for the group’s survival with how much she packed in her bag.
Perhaps what could have assisted the piece would have been fewer sudden transitions between scenes. Whilst the comedic effect of suddenly making it turn to night quite early on into the performance left the audience in laughter, it felt broken up at times when suddenly the lights were down and music played as the shadows of people moving on stage could still be seen.
If you can handle jokes of how God “really cracked it with birds” and how the weekend “is not a crisis, it’s a holiday” this one may just be for you! Overall, an enjoyable piece that provides a laugh-out-loud night out for all that sit in the audience.
Sheila’s Island will be running at MAST until Saturday 19th March 2022. Tickets are available here.