On the 25th September, the brand new soundtrack to the award-winning Edinburgh fringe festival favourite musical “Islander” was realised which promised a unique fusion of modern perspective with mythical inspiration. The show includes classical Celtic musical inspirations and incredible vocals to create a storytelling masterpiece through the medium of song. This album is unique in the fact that it is not your classic cheesy musical but rather a more serious and mature story with a heavy focus on storytelling. This musical (directed by Amy Draper with a book by Stewart Melton and music and lyrics by Finn Anderson) won the Musical Theatre Review’s Best Musical Award – Edinburgh Fringe 2019 and so the bar was set very high for the show and it definitely did not disappoint! The show is labelled as a Helen Milne Production, in association with Southwark Playhouse with a run of shows in October 2019 with the show lasting only 70mins but every second will have you transported into the heart of the show. The playlist itself only contains only 10 songs and coming in at only 33 minutes which is fairly short but as the songs individually are fairly short and the focus on storytelling time literally flies as you are listening to it. It shows like this that make me so excited for when the fringe can open again as it’s the birthplace for many incredible and unique pieces of theatre/musicals.
The story follows the life of Eilidh as she becomes frustrated with the way things are and dreams of a new life. She decides to spend some time staring out at the (which I have also been known to do on occasion) and imagine what life would be like beyond her lonely island. Classic ideas of myth collide with modern life when a mysterious stranger appears on the beach and flips Eilidh’s life upside down forever. What is very clever about this show is that it is entirely performed by two performers, Kirsty Findlay (Olivier Award Nominated, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) and Bethany Tennick, which you would never realise due to their insanely clever use of technology and their voices. These two performers portray a host of vastly different characters and demonstrate who clever and talented these people are. Not only is there character work some of the best I have ever seen but also their vocals are actually out of this world. The two beautiful voices work perfectly together and every song is a thing of perfection which is someone that many musicals struggle with.
Overall, The songs in this show are more subdue and emotional which is not something I particularly enjoy but this musical uses the music to focus on storytelling and to transport the audience right into the heart of the show. The show opens with a phenomenal duet called “splitting the island” which was beautiful to listen to while also paying homage to the Celtic inspirations. I was a little confused by the song “there is a whale” as it was only 36 seconds longs which were a little strange. I believe that due to listening to the soundtrack and not the dialogue in the live show that I missed some of the symbolism and importance to the whale and the song itself. Although I was incredibly impressed by the song “Video Call” as it was very cleverly crafted. The song had been edited and manipulated to perfectly represent an actual video call with echoing and lyrics that I myself have uttered during zoom/video calls frequently. The creators had clearly thought about this song and tried to make it as realistic and relatable as possible which was done excellently. The song helps start a full circle moment feel to the show as later in the album there is a song titled “Answer Phone” which signifies a change in the characters psyche and development which again is a very smart inclusion.
Overall, Islander fuses together modern ideas (such a video call and distanced learning) with classical, mostly, Celtic myths to create a unique musical that has storytelling down to a tee. The singing throughout is stunning and beautiful with a more relaxed theme than I expected. To summarise you go to this show for the storytelling but get hooked by the vocals! I would rate this show 4.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend people to give this a listen if they are interested in the power music can have with regards to storytelling!