Review by Bill Blake, aged seven
A clown, flying on a meteorite, crashes into an island. It’s a very small island, with a palm tree and a lump of rock, the remains of the meteorite.
The lights go on and the clown is flat on his face. He’s not moving. Then he starts to get up but his legs aren’t working. His tongue isn’t working either. When he tries to describe how he got here he starts making random sounds. Like labbleblabbleblabble or something.
He’s got two sides to his character: good and evil. Good is happy, crazy and funny. Evil is naughty, funny and he shoots people. A lot. The good guy falls in love with the palm tree. The bad guy draws rude pictures on it.
Darren Gilshenan is the only actor and he’s really good at playing both characters. His miming is very funny. There is a hilarious sign at the entrance that says 'This Show Contains Offensive Miming' and it was indeed reasonably offensive. Especially when he was trying to eat his own willy like it was a hot dog.
My brother Thom says he would recommend this show to mad nudists. But I recommend it to people who are fans of Charlie Chaplin – for example, me.
Review by Darryn King, aged quite a bit older
A man, facedown and on his stomach, limbs splayed out, on a tiny desert island – the kind of desert island that exists only in cartoons and everyone’s collective imagination. He jerks his head up. Inhales. Exhales. It almost seems like he’s breathing for the very first time.
Fools Island begins with a kind of birth – a nameless character (Gilshenan) plonked abruptly into existence and rather confused by the situation he finds himself in. In fact, he’s rather confused by the body he finds himself in: odd bits of it sticking out here and there and compelling him to move in strange ways.
What’s the ‘mime’ for tour-de-force? This first 15 minutes of Fools Island, especially, is a brilliantly unashamed showcase of Gilshenan’s considerable physical comedy talents, the character becoming aware of each new body part (including that one – yes, that one – shut your eyes, kids!) and figuring out what to do with them, like a toddler testing his new playthings. And his skill is sure to engage young and old audiences alike.
It’s all very simple and very funny, very early on. Fools Island could have easily been a Cambridge Footlights Revue-style skit and a great one at that. But Gilshenan and co-writer Chris Harris take it much further. The cheerful fool works out how to speak – he’s particularly frustrated by the uncooperativeness of the strange floppy pink thing in his mouth – and speaks in the words of Shakespeare. He deals with his hunger, develops a fondness for the lone palm tree on the island and ultimately comes face to face with his own dastardly twin – also, of course, played by Gilshenan. (You’ll have to see the show to figure that one out.)
The last scenes of Fools Island are unexpectedly dark, and not as straightforwardly enjoyable and all-ages-friendly as the scenes described above, so best leave the really young ones at home. All in all, though, it’s a delightful piece of theatre – brimming with the wit and intelligence of its performer.
Ages 10 and up.