The Islanders tells the simple tale of a young Dorset couple, Amy and Eddie; the beginnings of their love, the slow disaster of their living together and the titanic struggle of organising their first-and-only holiday to the Isle of Wight.
Amy and Eddie are played, respectively, by Amy Mason and Eddie Argos, a real-life ex-couple. Though it’s unclear just how much their teenage selves have been dramatised, you can’t help but feel for both of them, both shaky, both unsure of themselves but sure of each other.
The bulk of the storytelling falls to Mason, a quietly compelling stage presence who commands your attention throughout. It’s her perception of events that we get, leading you to feel like the story could be slightly one-sided but her adolescent affection for Eddie is such that you’re confident she never misrepresents him.
I found her narrative absolutely enthralling: a raw, honest account of the uncertainty we all feel when going from adolescence to adulthood. The new responsibilities, the practical considerations like bin days and council tax and the loss of innocence as the pressure mounts not just to grow up but to be a grown-up. Little details - the cupboard full of ‘orange food’, the shoe full of money, Eddie’s shirking of his duties as a postman to attempt to gain a little more time wrapped up in Amy’s arms - all bring back a time when, for all our good intentions, we’re just not experienced enough to handle life.
Eddie’s side of the story comes in the form of short songs and these, for me, were probably the weakest part of the show. Argos’ singing voice is by no means the strongest but, more than this, the songs he sings seem a bit out-of-their-time. For a play supposedly set in the late 90’s onwards, his shoegazery style is a bit retro, shifting us to almost a decade earlier and breaking the spell a little. That said, the musical interludes do break up what would otherwise be simply a talking-head show and add extra colour to Amy’s storytelling.
Through these songs, old snapshots and postcards to their younger selves, the story waltzes ever closer to its inevitable conclusion and the glorious moment of shock, right at the close, as you see a younger Amy and Eddie together in one picture for the first time, staring questioningly into the camera, and realise just how true to life this story of young love is.
I loved The Islanders - it’s funny, it’s profound, it’s sad but most of all it’s true. It captures with heartbreaking honesty the sweet self-destruction of two souls too in love and too young to function in the real world. A bittersweet memory for those of us who’ve been through it and a soft, sweet cautionary tale for those with it all ahead of them.