Lucy Popescu

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Theatre review – Mongrel Island

Posted by lucypopescu on July 28, 2011

MONGREL ISLAND by Ed Harris

Soho Theatre, Running until 6 August

In MONGREL ISLAND, Ed Harris takes a playful swipe at the dehumanising effects of office life on four burdened individuals.

Marie (Robyn Addison), Only Joe (Simon Kunz) and Elvis (Shane Zaza) spend their days entering data and filing timesheets, watched over by their eagle-eyed boss, Honey (Golda Rosheuval). In order to get some time off in lieu, to help her recently widowed dad, Marie starts working nights. However, sleep deprivation begins to feed her imagination and strange things start to happen.

Reminiscent of the fantasy world inhabited by the bedridden crime writer Philip Marlow in Dennis Potter’s THE SINGING DETECTIVE, Marie’s world takes on a hallucinatory feel. Is it real or is she day-dreaming to relieve the monotony? Marie befriends the night cleaner, the paper-munching Pippop (Joanna Holden), Elvis spins a yarn about a giant prawn before bursting onto a song and dance routine (another nod at Potter) and Joe is slowly going off the rails.

Harris finds humour in the mundane and draws sad notes from unexpected sources. All the characters are dealing with loss and yet hide their emotions behind their computer screens and the work routine. They develop annoying habits to piss off each other and attempt little acts of rebellion to stave off boredom.

The cast gives it their all and Steve Marmion skilfully steers the action between the parallel worlds.

MONGREL ISLAND has as its central motif a quote from EE Cumming: “There’s a hell of a good universe next door” As well as being an enjoyably surreal romp through the downside of office culture, the play also offers a salutary warning to all those who feel like their work is taking over their lives. Get out before it’s too late!

Originally published in Theatreworld

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