Sheila's Island

“A story of self-discovery and the need to survive”

"Sheila's Island" is a play written by British playwright Tim Firth. It's a comedy-drama that was first staged in 2021. The play revolves around the lives of a group of women who find themselves stranded on a remote island off the coast of the United Kingdom during a work team building event. The island is named after the team leader Sheila.

The story unfolds as these women, who come from different backgrounds, are brought together by unusual circumstances. They must navigate their differences and work together to survive and find a way back to civilization. The play explores themes of friendship, resilience, and the strength that can emerge when people are forced to confront challenges together.

The small cast of four worked very well together throughout the performance in the small and intimate setting of The Old Joint Stock Theatre.  The staging was very effective with a floor comprising of pebbles, leaves and dirt, setting the scene of the wilderness the foursome find themselves in.

Team leader Sheila (Susan Graham), Denise (Dru Stephenson), Fay (Sarah Ratheram) and Julie (Kaz Luckins), all with completely different personalities are thrust together in rather unusual circumstances and as they arrive on stage windswept and wet through from the extreme weather conditions, there is an air of hilarity of the situation, however as the hours pass by in the story, the atmosphere changes and for me, the humorous exchanges seemed to stop and it became a much darker story.

Each performer commanded the space well and throughout the first act the dialogue was punchy and flowed with ease.  Stand out performer of the evening for me was Dru Stephenson as Denise who displayed a high-level emotion and despair of the situation; however, all four performers were able to be captivating and fully immersed themselves into their specific characters.

There was plenty of bickering between characters as the hunger started to kick in, whether that be about how to share a solitary sausage between the four and whose piece was bigger than the others, how to light a camp fire, or how to signal for help.  You could see an authenticity in the reactions played out by each performer, especially when an emergency flare is found, however of all nights for them to be stranded, it had to be Bonfire Night where a colourful display in the sky is not out of the ordinary, thus leading to another failed attempt of rescue.

However, as we sat down for the second act, I found myself a little confused and as I mentioned before, the humorous elements of the play were pushed aside for a more ‘Lord of the Flies’ vibe.  There was one particular moment featuring Fay where she experiences a breakdown and arrives on stage with a dead bird that she proceeded to gut and feed the innards to the rest of the party.  It seemed a little ill judged, however this is of course down to the writing and not the performance.  I also found that the play as a whole seemed a little too long with my mind wandering away on certain occasions and with no real conclusion, it left me feeling a little unfulfilled.

Director Daniele Sanderson made some great choices with the staging, the sound effects and lighting which really did transport you into the bleak, cold and wet surroundings.  The cast worked so hard and even though the story didn’t really work for me, you should definitely experience the outdoor adventure for yourself.

This show was reviewed on the 11th October 2023.  Sheila's Island runs at The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham until the 14th October 2023.  Tickets available here: The Old Joint Stock Pub & Theatre Venue - Find out what's on at The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre in Birmingham

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Photo credit Shipwreck Production

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