“It is as if we find ourselves at the beginning of time…”
It may be Shakespeare’s Globe but it is Richard Bean’s when it comes to new writing at this venue and he returns once again with a Globe, Out of Joint and Chichester Festival Theatre co-production about the island colony of Pitcairn which was set up by Fletcher Christian in the wake of the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. Playing with the ideas of revolutionary freedom that were burning so fiercely on the other side of the globe, Christian dreamed of creating an Utopian ideal out of the sailors who left with him and a group of Polynesian men and women but perhaps unsurprisingly, little that was ideal came out of it.
Little that is ideal comes out of this play either. Bean throws in a number of interesting ideas into his Pitcairn – the power struggles between comrades, the jealousies that come out of the supposed liberation of sexual freedom, the culture clash that arises out of the enduring adherence to the Tahitian tradition of utmost respect for hierarchy. But it all adds up to very little and Bean has also incorporated some dodgier elements especially when it comes to the cringe-worthy expression of that sexual freedom, the constant reliance of embarrassingly dated notions of the ‘natives’ (let’s dance!) and audience participation that doesn’t really fly.
More crucially, there are too many moments when the square peg of the writing doesn’t fit into the round hole of play, endless exposition and contortioning allows for points about democracy to be heavy-handedly made when more time could usefully have been spent delineating the characters. Max Stafford-Clark ensures his cast work effectively – Samuel Edward-Cook and Siubhan Harrison both impress, Eben Figueiredo and Cassie Layton also shine through when narrating, but too much just doesn’t work here for my liking.