For me, the really interesting thing about Mutiny on the Bounty wasn’t what happened with Captain Bligh on the ship but what Fletcher Christian and his cohorts got up to afterwards on dry land. Tales of in-breeding, isolation, murder and madness on tiny Pitcairn Island, where the mutineers set down, continue to fascinate me.
The setting for Zinnie Harris' Further than the Furthest Thing is a similarly remote and haunted island outpost. It's modelled on the real-life Tristan da Cunha, a volcanic hiccup cropped up in the Atlantic halfway between South Africa and South America.
The island community is made up of 170 souls who share just seven surnames. An odd bunch they are, too. Though the time is 1961, it feels like we're caught in a much more ancient time warp. After so long cut off from the "H'outside Warld", the islanders are a bundle of sepia-toned cultural influences. They wear flat caps, headscarves and thick woollen socks and speak in a patois of dropped pronouns, added h's and distorted present participles (ie, "I be writing").
The first act is the longer and, truthfully, too long in the build up to the act of nature that separates the characters' from their beloved home. Act Two is almost another story again, as the evacuated islanders struggle to make sense of H'Aingland and modern life. What binds the two halves together most strongly are the dirty and deeply buried island secrets that slowly emerge - one after the other - with shocking consequences. If there's perhaps a secret too many for my taste, the extra minor plot convolution doesn't lessen the impact of the aggregate.
In this return production, directed by Irina Brown following last year's much-lauded outing at the NT Cottesloe, Paola Dionisotti reprises her role as matriarch Mill Lavarello. Dionisotti deservedly won two Best Actress awards for her performance, which remains undimmed.
The rest of the cast are good, but in no way equal. David Burke as Mill's husband Bill plays is a tad too befuddled from the get-go and Mairead McKinley as the sullied Rebecca could do with toning down her stridency. Elsewhere, Gary McInnes makes a touching young Francis, torn between opposing ways of life, and Paul Shelley is especially effective as Mr Hansen, the South African businessman torn between ethics and economics.
Further than is a complex and richly thought-provoking piece - all the more astonishing when you consider that it’s only the second play by Harris, who's still just 28. I look forward to the next play - and the next and the next and the next - from this promising young author.