Edinburgh Festival: Island State (3 stars)

“Don’t mention the ‘c’ word,” implores home-schooled Josie to cynical, tell-it-like-it-is Marilyn. She’s talking about cannibalism. Behind her, Marilyn is poised with a knife.

The year is 2046, the polar ice-caps have melted, the Thames Barrier has burst and Britain is underwater. Josie, 17-going-on-seven, and Marilyn, with a ripped shirt and an attitude to match, are the unlikely sole survivors. Rather than being trapped in a lift together, they’re stranded on an island.

Writer and director Dom Riley’s biting script – which won the Durham Drama Festival’s Best New Writing award – thrives on the strength of its poles-apart characters.

While Jess Groocock’s pig-tailed Josie, flashing her pants and Disney Princess watch, can feel more like a cartoon than anyone you might actually
meet, a revelation about her past goes some way to explaining why.

Grace Cheatle has real presence as brooding, plotting Marilyn, and a simple set of black-and-white projected images conveys the eerie quiet of a post-apocalyptic world where a water filter, tape player and tennis set are the only surviving objects.

It’s a small piece that could do with more time to develop its Orwellian themes, but one that ultimately asks whether politeness and sharing can prevail over survival of the fittest. “We can’t exactly eat ourselves,” Josie says. “One of us can,” Marilyn replies.

Written for The Scotsman

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