It’s hard when you’re rich, attractive, in a long-term relationship and people keep falling in love with you. This seems to be the message of Kyle Ross’s play Islands, from Fine Mess Theatre.
It examines the relationship of a wealthy and narcissistic couple in their late twenties. Sophie (Eva Tausig) and Magnus (played by Ross) met at Durham University. They stand in black underwear amid champagne buckets stuffed with rose petals. It’s straight out of the Ann Summers catalogue, especially in its 50 Shades-inspired glimpse at sexual politics.
In its portrayal of the Made in Chelsea class, Islands can’t decide between sympathy and condemnation. Tausig stretches her Sloanish accent to the point of caricature; it’s hard to sympathise with a character when even the actor herself seems to be mocking her.
Ross treats the privately educated, red brick ‘elite’ like snakes in a zoo: equal parts pity and disgust. By portraying these two as figures to ogle at, it emphasises difference over similarity and risks perpetuating class divisions.
Still, it’s directed with precision by Scarlett Plouviez Comnas, who keeps movement to a minimum and reinforces the bare, exposed nature of the actors’ words and their bodies.
The play dares us to like them in the way that 7-year-olds dare each other to climb telegraph poles: immaturely and without purpose. Are we meant to find the humanity in these people, or focus on the divisions and hate them for their privileges? Islands never makes it clear.