Tudor Players’ Shelia’s Island – 12 June 2024, Library Theatre

Review by Claire Taranaski.

Tudor Players are well known for their quality productions of comedy plays and their production of Shelia’s Island is no different and should not be missed by fans of the company, fans of the playwright Tim Firth (Calendar Girls, The Flint Street Nativity and more) and most importantly anyone who has ever gone on a corporate team building trip, is planning to organise one or just likes being in the great outdoors.

Shelia’s Island is not just a comedy four women play about team building on an island, it’s also a tale of survival instances, the differences between us and everyone’s mental health, and this would not have worked without four strong actresses believably portraying the four female characters and their connection on stage. This is helped by Tudor Players being a company who know each of their members strengths well (I was surprised it was Jan Ibberson’s first role with the company as within minutes she felt like she had always been part of the company) and the superb direction of Phil Gascoyne who continues to confirm he is as excellent a director as an actor.

Apart from one of my favourite musical of all time (where at least the male lead gets to dry off immediately during the interval) this is the only show I have seen where the entire cast are soaking wet on stage and have to dry off on stage. No one likes being in wet clothes and it’s a credit to the actresses that this did not distract them from the show (though I’m not going to follow their advice to slap myself warm afterwards).

In terms of the cast all brought their acting game to the stage from Jan Ibberson’s enthusiastic and optimistic captain Shelia (my personal highlight of her performance was her comeuppance with Denise played by Edwina Gascoyne). Edwina played the character with infuriation, verbal aggression and sarcasm and in a play of great monologues was superb in her memorable “no one believes” rant, and left me hoping I never have to play sport with her. The always prepared Julie played by Rhiannon Jones provided one of my favourite comedy moments of the show with her inability to tell jokes or describe movie plays. Last was Charlie Gascoyne Thompson as the Christian, bird watching “don’t mention Lucy” Faye who provided my favourite monologue of the show “thank you for the birds”.

As I write this I realised I need to compare the four characters and their portrayals with the four leads of Sex In The City, we might not want to know them in real life but they all have aspects of their characters we can relate to and the potential for an unlikely friendship to be formed and who as an audience we quickly connect to and hope they have a happy ending.

Behind the scenes I must praise the set design and construction team for transforming the stage into the small island in the middle of Derwent Water in the Lake District (though I feel sorry for whoever has to sweep up the leaves afterwards) and Siobhan Hible for the memorable props including the bra catapult and the sausage that needs to be re-cut up every night (I will never look at a sliced sausage in the same way again). Last but not least I pity who ever has to wash the mud and over substances out of two of the outfits.

Tudor Players superb production of Shelia’s Island is on at the Library Theatre until Saturday 15 June. To book visit Tudor Players | Tickets.

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