BY JULIE SUTHERLAND
They say to get the most important “stuff” in first, so here it is: Go see Shit Song for Some Island by Kyle Capstick. In an age where theatre is still hugely dominated by male characters, the all-female cast of a show where every character is female (but whose sex matters not at all) is both significant and revitalizing. But this isn’t why you should see Capstick’s play. This lyrical, complex love-song to “some island” has moments of potent revelation about the way we see ourselves in our environment, see others encroaching on our spaces, and dream to get out even while we are mourning the idea of leaving.
The story is this: Duana, a girl with haunting prophetic vision, has left an island for the city (her character, lost and questing, is skillfully depicted by Bonnie MacLeod). The island and its inhabitants feel betrayed—at least one of them does, anyway: Fiddler Girl, played faultlessly by Jenn Tubrett. But before a cynical audience of islanders can get their knickers in a knot about a young fiddler woman who idealizes this complicated island, they are introduced to Fiddler, a slightly older character whose witty and important pragmatism is beautifully captured by Diana Furlong-MacKinnon. Despite Fiddler’s matter-of-factness about the island, Fiddler Girl is unconsoled; she feels terrified for Duana. What will a girl with “rural eyes” and a funny accent become in a place where drugs run rampant and at every turn, disaster threatens? Even prophetic vision does not save us from ourselves. Duana quickly falls in love, but not with the city, rather with a city-dweller (Ryann—“of course it has two Ns”—played convincingly by Kathleen O’Toole), who does her best to draw Duana away from her roots.
But the story isn’t one of loss for “some island.” Instead, Duana expresses the great divide so many of us feel in this remote and magical place. “It’s shit,” she says repeatedly, but the images of it she paints with her words belie her noisy censure. Indeed, she is partly responsible for another character’s departure for that dangerous and dreamy island, where waves crash endlessly against rock faces and onto stony shores. This is the final third of the story. Jane—whose character, both hesitant and headstrong, is captured brilliantly by Lindsay Thompson—had intended some time ago to try her life on the island, called there by Fiddler Girl, whom she had met online. In the end, however, it is Duana’s coaxing that warms Jane’s feet and sends her on a quest for love, both of an island and a girl. So the “shit island” must not be so horrible after all.
A refreshing aspect of this play is the entirely unstated point that the romances are same-sex. They just are. There is no issue. Cupid shoots blind.
The actors successfully play distinct roles that meld seamlessly into artful chorus work, which in turn diverges into sometimes humorous, sometimes melancholy dialogue. The narrative is accentuated with sweet melody and arresting visuals. While the stage itself is starkly set, captivating images of urban and rural life are projected onto a screen that serves as the scene’s backdrop. The simplicity of the stage artfully contradicts a far less simple tale—one of rebellion, frustration, fear, and love.
Part A Christmas Carol, part Country Mouse, City Mouse, and infused with the melodious magic of stories like The Selkie Wife, Capstick’s Shit Song for Some Island should not be missed. The play runs until January 11 at Highland Arts Theatre in Sydney.