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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Outward Bound
Finborough Theatre   February 2012

I'll begin with a spoiler – the characters in Sutton Vane's 1923 drama are all dead. 

That's not much of a spoiler – we're told this midway through Act One and may well have guessed it earlier, and besides, the play is really about their figuring it out and reacting to it. 

They appear first as passengers on an ocean voyage, only gradually realising that they don't know where they're going or how and why they got onboard. This gives Vane time to introduce them – a snooty society lady, a drunken wastrel, an ineffectual clergyman and the like. 

The cross-section of personalities has clearly been chosen to allow a variety of reactions to the news of their mortality, and to make unforced social and moral comment as well as providing both humour and drama. 

The play shows its age and creaks a bit. The cast is a bit too cross-sectioned, like those American war movies in which every platoon has one guy from Brooklyn, one from Texas, etc. And if you can't predict from scene one that the humble charlady will prove to deserve the highest afterlife reward, you've never seen a play or read a book in your life. 

But these are minor and humorous quirks, and the play's honesty and commitment to its vision carry it past them, just as its solid, occasionally predictable well-made structure proves solid and seaworthy. 

Director Louise Hill wisely realises that the only way to revive a play like this is to believe it unquestioningly and commit to it completely – the slightest hint of a wink or ironic distance would be fatal. And so, as much as some of the characters have become cliches in the past ninety years, Hill has her actors play them as real and believable – and as a result we believe and care about them.

In a strong cast, Carmen Rodreguez as the snooty lady, Derek Howard as a hot-headed businessman, Nicholas Karimi as the self-hating drunk and David Brett as an all-knowing steward stand out.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Outward Bound - Finborough Theatre  2012