In 1940, the British strategically invaded neutral Iceland in a preemptive move to prevent a German invasion. Britain was terrified of losing its control of the North Atlantic. British forces in the country eventually numbered 20,000, which, in country of just 120,000 at the time, was certain to make an impact. KATE, by Lost Watch Theatre Company sets out to chart the effect the British soldiers have on one particular Icelandic family.
KATE has an interesting topic and the small ensemble cast approaches the material with energy and enthusiasm.
KATE follows the story of the title character as she leaves the countryside for the bright lights of Reykjavik looking for work and opportunity. With the British soldiers around, there is money everywhere. She moves in with family friends who have given her a job in their kiosk with their daughter, Selma. Whilst Kate falls in love with Robert, from Basingstoke, Selma sells herself to other British soldiers in the hope of getting enough money to move to America.
KATE has an interesting topic, and the small ensemble cast approaches the material with energy and enthusiasm. Lovely a capella Icelandic singing adds an authentic touch, as does the use of Icelandic words throughout the show. Some fun and clever movement sequences, like Kate’s journey to Reykjavik, and a particularly disastrous picnic in a windstorm, are charming. The casting of one actor (Alex Dowding) as two (very different) British soldiers Rob and Bill is also a humourous choice.
The script, written by Agnes Þorkelsdóttir Wild, verges towards the melodramatic and some dialogue could stand to be cut.The last scene, set 10 years after the main action of the play, also seemed unnecessary – the final tragedy could have been made obvious within the action of the play. The use of a very loud leaf blower to signify the Icelandic wind was an amusing gag to start, but it’s constant use over the course of the show began to wear thin.
Overall, however, KATE is an amusing, rollicking ride through a section of British and Icelandic history unknown to many.