Ikaria, 3 Stars

Old Red Lion Pub Theatre
8th Nov to 19th Nov 2022

“Simon has returned to uni after taking a year out. He just wants to get on with his finals and not slip back into old, destructive habits. Mia, a first-year, is embracing the explosive freedom of life away from home. Simon doesn’t want to leave his room. But then he meets Mia.
IKARIA is a love story about finding salvation in someone else.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

IKARIA is apparently a Greek island whose inhabitants are renowned for longevity. Life slows down providing a break from daily routine. How do I know this? I googled cos I had never heard of Ikaria and had absolutely no idea what to expect from this production.

The 1st half of this production is exciting, well written and superbly acted. It’s punchy and thoughtful and the 50 minutes leading to the interval are full of promise. With great lighting, realistic set, good sound effects and video on laptop everything is supportive of this punchy show.
In the 1st half.

The 2nd half however is problematic. With a long head-banging solo dance that felt like padding the time – all the ideas have already been set in the 1st half. The story becomes predictable. In real life, when someone is depressed and struggling to engage with the outside world they’re often capable of keeping up a pretense to those “outside” that all is well. Here though, in this production, there are plenty of clues for parents, friends, college professors that Simon is falling apart. They don’t realise and intervene, only his girlfriend realises. This is when it starts to feel unrealistic. The most poignant moment in the 2nd half is when Simon refuses to spend time with his girlfriend during the college break but on a phone call to his mother, he lies, and tells her that all is great and he’ll spend the holiday with his girlfriend. This was so good. This is how highly functioning individuals can sometimes behave when mentally they’re falling apart. They bluff, they lie, and they’re good at it. The production should have ended there.

Sadly though, it continued. There are now flickering lights like the devil has possessed the flat. We watch Simon wretching as he sticks his fingers down his throat, we see him wank, toss and turn at night, and generally deteriorate. We know he’s going to commit suicide but this is all so drawn out and detailed. The technical is trying too hard and is distracting. Then there’s a blackout, then a very long pause before the lights come on while the audience look at each other and wonder if it’s the end and should they applaud. Then, bizarrely, Simon’s parents arrive on stage. I did wonder if some punters from the pub had got lost and come up the back staircase in error. It’s such a surprise to introduce 2 actors so late in the play who aren’t even listed in the cut-sheet and it breaks the mood. The mum looks around, smells his clothes, weeps into his hoodie and orchestral music plays out of nowehere which builds in volume to a blackout. It’s very difficult to feel any emotion for the parents who have just arrived on stage so unexpectedly. We know so little about them – particularly when Simon has made a point of not discussing them when asked to do so earlier in the production.

The audience gave a standing ovation – with one poor guy in the back row hitting his head hard on a profile spot which is rigged way too low to be safe.

The dramaturg and theatricality at the end just ruins what could and should have otherwise be an incredible production.

Photo credit Tristram Kenton

James Wilbraham as Simon
Amaia Naima Aguinaga as Mia

Creative team:
Playwright/Director – Philippa Lawford
Producer/Associate Director – Izzy Parriss
Lighting Designer – Shane Gill
Stage Manager – Louise Cowling
Sound Designer – Laurie Blundell
Stylist – Abby Keast


Tickets: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/IKARIA.html