Review: Once on this Island

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Once on this Island is an outstanding production. Filled with a rollercoaster of emotions from love to loss, it is a moving watch. Set on an island in the Caribbean Sea controlled by four Gods, the story follows Ti Moune, a young girl, (Rue Mugabe), who has been orphaned and taken in by Mama Euralie (Aoife Galvin) and Tonton (Marco Morgan-Castro). One night there is a terrible storm and a young wealthy boy, Daniel (Joshua Schlichting), ends up in a car crash. Ti Moune rescues and nurses him back to life. They fall in the love and their turbulent but sweet relationship faces many challenges. Sightline Production’s Once on this Island, and DST’s first all POC production, is an energetic and compelling watch, an inspiration for DST shows to come!

A standout element from the production is the impressive and accurate way the cast is able to capture a sense of place. During the song ‘Waiting for life’, Ti Moune introduces us to the island. The directors and have clearly taken advantage of the depth that the stage has to offer. Brilliantly, actors pass across the stage as if going about their daily lives as Ti Moune invites us into her world. It gives an incredibly natural feel to the production, heightening its believability which only makes each emotion’s impact on the audience more powerful. Again, during the song ‘Mama will provide’, sung absolutely superbly by Iliane Ed Dhimine, the island is brought to life. Actors create the noises of the island, for example, bird songs and trees, as Ed Dhimine commands the stage in an impressively energetic performance.

It gives an incredibly natural feel to the production, heightening its believability which only makes each emotion’s impact on the audience more powerful

As well as setting the scene, the Gods played by Saachi Bajaj, Adesola Adejobi, and act as narrators throughout the performance. The act of storytelling, in fact, runs through the entire performance and the narration from the Gods draws the audience in, it is impossible to draw your eyes away, you are hooked on every word. The narrators would normally come downstage to deliver their lines, and although useful it could’ve been nice to see some variation in the blocking when it came to the narration. At times as well, there was little movement and performers remained static, but this is only a minor point.

To add to a brilliant set of storytellers is a completely enchanting set that transports you to the tropical island! With a beige floor depicting sand, the stage is dotted with floor-to-ceiling palm trees and three house facades which are positioned staged left. It creates the perfect sense of location and a warm choice of lighting creates the island sun. The CPT talents are further seen in the costumes. A highlight has to be the Gods’ costumes. Each God wears a floor-length dress in a colour that represents what they are a God of, for example, the God of Rivers Agwe, wears a blue dress. The props are fantastic, particularly the candles used during the song ‘Human Heart’ that effortlessly create a romantic atmosphere in this scene between the two lovers Ti Moune and Daniel.

To add to a brilliant set of storytellers is a completely enchanting set that transports you to the tropical island!

Rue Mugabe, playing Ti Moune, wonderfully captures the nature of her character. A sweet and caring individual is presented to the audience, and we form a bond with her, we hope this girl is treated with the kindness that she treats others. Mugabe also dances excellently. During the ball scene at Daniel’s house, Ti Moune is asked to dance and Mugabe steals the limelight. Her movements are fluid and the dance is choreographed beautifully. Contrasting to this loving character is Papa Ge played by Adesola Adejobi. Adejobi plays the villain of the story and her strong demeanour captures this cruel character, and as an audience, we clearly understand the danger Ti Moune is in. To add a sense of comfort to show is the character of Mama Euralie played by Aoife Galvin. Galvin has an angelic voice and plays her role naturally. She creates emotion effortlessly, particularly at the end of the show during ‘A Part of Us’. Many performers were multi-rolled and as an ensemble, the cast’s voices were simply outstanding. Their harmonies were smooth and elegant.

Overall, Once on this Island, is a joyous watch that injects hope and love into the audience. The characters are inspiring, especially Ti Moune as a brave and selfless person. The CPT has created a show with no loose ends, everything ties together seamlessly. The band is faultless and plays with feeling, adding to the atmosphere created on stage. I can only hope more DST productions will be like Once on this Island.

Image credit: Sightline Productions

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