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Theatre review: Islands

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Islands by Caroline Horton at the Bush Theatre
playing until 21 February

In the same week that tax, normally a shy, retiring type who avoids the headlines like the plague, made the world stage in Davos our favourite topic hit a very different stage in Shepherd’s Bush.

The prospective exposure of the way in which the ultra-rich choose to minimise their contribution to society took place at the Bush, a new writing theatre with a fine pedigree.

Islands by Caroline Horton was promoted as the first play which set out to address the (im)morality of taxation. More pertinently, we were led to expect an incisive exposé of the potentially murky world of abusive tax avoidance to public scrutiny.

While this topic has challenged those in government and the tax avoidance industry for years, the impecunious members of the theatrical profession have generally not been troubled by the need to re-situate to tax havens. Indeed, many would probably be very happy to enjoy the kind of income that would oblige them to pay the higher rate of tax, let alone avoid it.

As a result, the opening night was attended by a number of journalists representing publications specialising in tax as well as the usual array of theatre critics from the nationals and specialist publications.

Sadly for most, the play failed on two counts. First, what viewers were presented with was an almost unintelligible reworking of the creation featuring a modern Adam and Eve of limited intelligence bullied by Mary, a female deity portrayed by the playwright and supported by a pair of androgynous acolytes.

Oddly, despite the apparent attempts of its residents to enrich themselves, the far from heavenly Haven and its inhabitants did not appear to be enjoying the fruits of its wealth.

Secondly, despite occasional clips from the great and the good including the late Lady Thatcher, Barack Obama and David Cameron denouncing those that pay less than what they see as their fair share of tax, avoidance and evasion were very much secondary topics.

It was only when Eve launched into a dramatic tirade three-quarters of the way through the 100 minute running time that it briefly reached centre stage.

Bearing in mind that according to Oxfam $18.5 trillion is ‘siphoned out of the world economy into tax havens by wealthy individuals alone’, this will probably not be the last time that playwrights attempt to take on such an important subject. Haven dwellers beware.

Categories: In brief