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O, Island! - Royal Shakespeare Company Review

Nina Segal's new piece O, Island! forms part of the doubleheader of plays in the Royal Shakespeare Company Mischief Festival 2022 (the other play being Ivy Tiller: Vicar's Daughter, Squirrel Killer) which brings new writing to their Other Place studio stage. 

Linda Broughton as Margaret in O, Island! Photo by The Other Richard

Segal's piece centres on a medium-sized village which is located "somewhere outside the M25" that is described in the opening speech as quite an idyllic place where the river goes largely unnoticed by the residents until one night the river floods and the village becomes a cut-off island. 

In the early moments of the play, the focus is on a gloriously over-the-top Alex Bhat as local politician Leonard who insists the villagers follow him out, more for his own gain than anything. All the villagers remain reluctant and overthrow his power and instead install what on the surface is sweet old lady Margaret played by an excellent Linda Broughton.

What unravels is quite telling that this fantastical piece which should feel quite madcap but feels ever so timely in times of uncertainty politically. Margaret's own journey as she becomes the dictator of the island ruling with firm power feels a bit of a stretch especially as she begins installing barbed wire fences and gun-carrying guards. 

The piece really ramps up once mother Vi, a tremendous Jade Ogugua, discovers one of her children has left the island one night, Margaret calls them an outsider and refuses to send out a search party. Vi herself then becomes an outsider in the community and has to take refuge hiding in the local leisure centre. 

Joe Barber as Laurie and Jade Ogugua as Vi in O, Island! Photo by The Other Richard.

As the production goes on it feels a little lost in finding its resolution, especially in the third act. It becomes if anything more and more ridiculous and loses some credibility for it. As soon as the guns enter the fray the piece strays off course a little. 

Documentary maker Inge, played by Anna Andresen, who interviews the local residents eventually snaps from her position of an observer and takes action into her own hands ending up visiting Margaret late at night, though ultimately she is unable to bring herself to kill her and oddly finds herself ending up taking a bath at Margaret's request.

There's an outstanding performance by Joe Barber as teenager Laurie, his relationship with his father Mick, played by Tim Treloar is fascinating and often heart-breaking to watch. Barber does a great job in humanising the emotion of the role especially as he grows from the initial first scene where he's accused of being a mad teen screaming in the streets after being the first to witness the river breaking its bank.

Milla Clarke's design is superb as a central grassy island allows for the action to play out with the use of props, curtains and larger set pieces. It's a clever use of the space that works well. Elliot Griggs adds great lighting that embosses the dictator-led island with a tense atmosphere.

O, Island! is certainly an interesting watch. There's potential in this piece. Its 90-minute run time leaves a lot of questions answered, why is Margaret so bound to this way of thought, why does Mick do what he does, and why are people conforming to the whole idea. The piece could do with extending to allow a bit more fleshing out and motives to be discovered but it's relevant and superbly acted.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

O, Island! plays at The Other Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon until Saturday 5th November. Ivy Tiller: Vicar's Daughter, Squirrel Killer completes the duo of Mischief Festival plays and also runs until Saturday 5th November. You can book tickets for both productions from

Jade Ogugua, Linda Broughton, Tim Treloar, Joe Barber and Alex Bhat in O, Island! Photo by The Other Richard.

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