Philip Osment’s play This Island’s Mine was originally performed by theatre company Gay Sweatshop in 1988. The government had just introduced the infamous Section 28, banning positive representations of homosexuality and the Aids epidemic was terrifying the nation. Osment’s lyrical play draws parallels with the rise of the right wing in 1930s Europe and the state-sanctioned homophobia facilitated by the Thatcher regime.
Osment draws on the past in this play and so does director Philip Wilson in this timely revival. With current global politics taking a swing to the right, Wilson uses Osment’s message to forewarn. The play may not have the epic resonance of Tony Kushner or Matthew Lopez, but the urgency of Osment’s writing makes it just as imperative. The characters are still fresh and their stories intertwine with the elegance of an Armistead Maupin novel. Only the narrative style shows the play’s age.
Wilson’s production gets the message across, but there is something constrictive in his staging. His direction is self-conscious in places. It’s steady rather than imaginative, but the gender-fluid ensemble inhabits the story with conviction. Theo Fraser Steele proves a versatile performer slipping seamlessly from Prospero to gay lawyer to a Louisiana businessman with practiced ease. There’s thoughtful work too from Jane Bertish as the cautious Miss Rosenblum and Connor Bannister as fresh-faced runaway Luke. Praise must go to Ardent and Wilson for bringing this play back to public attention but it would benefit from a little more freedom of form.