The Island Princess
RSC at the Gielgud
Review by Philip Fisher
The second play in the RSC's latest London season is a rather confusing tale of the culture clash as Portuguese adventurers come upon the island of Indonesia.
The eponymous heroine is beloved by no fewer than six different men. Two local kings and a governor, the last more than usually wicked even by the standards of melodrama, have to compete with the invaders. A cowardly sea captain, his nephew and an adventurer seeking his fortune, make up the long list for the beautiful Quisara's affections.
The play takes a long time to warm up as the characters establish themselves and their relationships. As it falls into place, Quisara (played pluckily by Sasha Behar) tells the less than noble captain, a suitably reticent swashbuckler (David Rintoul), that she will give her hand to the man that will rescue her brother from the grip of the evil Governor.
Unfortunately for her, another far braver man, Jamie Glover's Armusia overhears this and, being smitten, carries out the task. This leaves the heroine in a bit of a quandary as her love has been usurped by a man whom she doesn't know.
After the interval, there is a duel between the two men and Armusia dishonours the princess by suggesting that she become a Christian. He is incarcerated and this allows Jamie Glover to deliver a truly noble speech.
The plot twists further as the Governor returns disguised as a holy man. He poisons the Princess towards both men and it appears that he may see his wish granted, with both being killed and the princess his own.
It is perhaps inevitable that in an adventure of this type, the younger Armusia wins the day, the princess converts and all bar the bad man live happily ever after.
Despite odd good moments, The Island Princess contains too many longueurs and speeches that contain little of either drama or comedy. The problem seems to lie less with Gregory Doran and his hard-working cast than with a play that has too little interest to justify a revival in an RSC season that otherwise offers many riches. It does, however, have a full gamelan band to add a touch of the exotic.
The Island Princess is playing until 25th January.
This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version.