Review: Sheila's Island on Kenilworth stage is a good production let down by a disappointing script ​

​Charles Essex reviews Sheila’s Island, directed by Stuart Lawson at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
Jo Banbury, Sarah Hubbard, Esther Taylor and Cheryl Ryan in Sheila's IslandJo Banbury, Sarah Hubbard, Esther Taylor and Cheryl Ryan in Sheila's Island
Jo Banbury, Sarah Hubbard, Esther Taylor and Cheryl Ryan in Sheila's Island

Who thinks up team-building exercises? One suspects a person who does not have to go on one.

​They are intended to enhance cooperation and mutual respect – until things go wrong and then people show their true colours. Set designer Steve Boden did an incredible job with a very impressive set, much more challenging than the usual lounge or country house of so many amateur theatre productions: an island with a very realistic large tree, a floor of wood chips, logs and plenty of foliage, onto which the four shipwrecked colleagues climbed soaking wet from the water.

The four characters are somewhat stereotypes. Jo Banbury is excellent as Julie, the Little Miss Proper, packing everything including (probably) the kitchen sink, who incurs the irritation of Denise (Cheryl Ryan). Denise’s character is too aggressive from the onset rather than building slowly with sarcasm and facetiousness. Team leader Sheila (Sarah Hubbard), whose conceit at being clever at cryptic crosswords led to the misinterpretation of clues and their predicament, is not quite sympathetic enough. Esther Taylor as Fay, a fundamentalist Christian, gave the most breadth to her character. There was an underlying backstory which was hinted at. Esther conveyed well Fay’s fragility, which became apparent in the second act.

Inevitably there was a descent into squabbles, mainly due to Denise’s extreme unpleasantness, and we learnt of jealousies, prejudices, strengths and weaknesses (more of the latter than the former), which are unintended consequences of team-building exercises.

Playwright Tim Firth transcribed his very successful and amusing Neville’s Island to an all female cast. This reviewer considers it was lazy script writing as this play does not capture the growing tension combined with the humour of the original. Although the initial scene was rather pedestrian and there were some first night stumbles, these can be forgiven, as once again The Priory put on a good production but were let down by a weak script.

Sheila’s Island runs until September 16. Visit or call 0333 666 3366 to book.

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