The Straw Chair ★★★★ Finborough Theatre | Apr 19 - May 14, 2022

In 1735, a well-meaning, rather conventional minister, Aneas, and his young teenage bride, Isabel, come to the isolated island of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides. During their missionary summer there, they are going to find their views of the world severely tested. His religious and social certainties and her naïveté are confronted by an island society that speaks a different language, has very different customs and espouses some spiritual beliefs that have nothing to do with orthodox Christianity. In addition to the strangeness of this new world, they also encounter an exile from the society they think they know. Playwright, Sue Glover, has woven into this tale of personal and cultural discovery the real story of Rachel, Lady Grange, who is exiled by a cruel husband but who obsessively clings to her "civilised" values. As the ill-treated, half-mad noblewomen, Siobhan Redmond puts in a bravura performance and dominates the stage whenever she appears. The audience completely shares the fascination of the minister's wife with her fellow exile, even as she herself begins to adapt to the ways of the island. Rori Hawthorn does a fine job of rendering Isabel's gradual integration into the humane values of the harsh island life, while Finlay Bain is equally strong as her hidebound husband who comes to realise the cruel and unfair power dynamics of the society he represents. Acting kudos also go to Jenny Lee whose understated creation of Oona, the spirit of the island, provides a suitable contrast to the over-the-top Lady Grange clinging to the unworthy values of a world that has mistreated her. This fascinating play is well-directed by Polly Creed and has some top-notch performances. We'd strongly urge you to join Aneas and Isabel on their journey to this very special island which reaches across time to engage some questions very relevant to today's society.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Carla Joy Evans.

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