A Romance to Remember
Before heading to Fringe, I had the pleasure of kicking off my theatrical weekend with the musical period-drama Sam & Isla Forever!
Sam Kent and Isla Chappell are lovers, broken apart as Sam returns to World War I, where his best friends are forced to shoot him for cowardice. In 1974, Isla’s daughter, Eleanor Holmes, approaches alcoholic lawyer Martin to secure a formal apology by the British government. What follows is a Citizen Kane-esque exploration through the diaries and testimonies detailing Sam Kent’s life. Indeed, the plot keeps you guessing as to what digging up the past may bring with it.
The immediate positive of the production comes from the hugely ambitious choreography that showcases summertime cèilidhs, rifle routines, and terrifying battles. The performers use the vacant space exceedingly well, working in tandem with the stellar lighting. The scene depicting soldiers tunnelling under no man’s land was particularly haunting, encapsulating the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere.
Sam and Isla’s relationship is a crowning jewel of the production, with Rachel Cox and Frazer Smiles providing believable performances without crossing to the realms of cheese. However, Sam’s return in the second act could have given way for some development of Isla’s character.
There were a couple of problems with audio and levels of singing which may have come down to the limitations of the venue, but keeping the projection high would also resolve these issues.
Rob Flynn had his work cut out for him as director, writer, composer, and actor of this challenging piece. Despite this, he has provided a detailed and compelling narrative that harbours a beautiful romance that transcends time. Polishing off the few issues will result in an unrelenting performance to impress.