[The following contains significant spoilers.]
Dom Riley’s “Island State” is set in 2046, with most of Britain now underwater. Two women (Grace Cheatle and Jess Groocock) are left bickering on a desert island and the sea level is rising steadily. I had originally put off seeing this play – which has one day left at C Nova – because I don’t like the idea of humanity being defeated by a bit of water. I prefer my politics optimistic and I am altogether happier with stories about human resourcefulness. Yet in its political message this play is even worse than it looks. Britain has been sunk, the population has been wiped out, and yet the monarchy still survives. Even after the apocalypse the House of Windsor remains indestructible!
Riley has gambled and got it wrong. Presumably the Royal Baby had not been born when this play was written, and he had wagered the whole show on it being a girl. The two ladies on the island, Marilyn (Cheatle) and Josie (doesn’t Cheatle and Groocock sound like a firm of Dickensian solicitors?), respectively represent democracy and the monarchy. The former elects herself prime minister (Josie is too young to vote), whilst the latter trumps this by turning out to be a fully-grown version of the RB. Actually, the RB would be thirty-three in 2046 and Josie is only seventeen, so perhaps she is later down the line of succession.
Josie appears to have sailed through the apocalypse intact by relying upon her innate majesty. Marilyn wants to slit the princess’s throat, but she cannot go through with this in the end. Every fibre of her patriotic being rebels against rebellion and she simply wilts up. She does get bonus marks, however, for not having sex with the princess even though they are supposedly the last two Britons left on Earth.
There are other fish frying in this play, as well as some judicious acting, but I ultimately interpreted “Island State” as being a witty and imaginative satire upon the gormlessness of the British public. We will only be republicans once the waves have closed over our heads.