The Southwark Playhouse is hosting Islander in association with Helen Milne Productions. Here we chat with Bethany Tennick, one of the actors in the play.
Where are you from and how did you end up in the show?
I’m from Edinburgh, but I grew up moving all over and have lived in 12 cities in 5 different countries- Glasgow being my latest and hopefully my last. I ended up on the show after doing a Musical Theatre degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and then auditioning for the Islander back in 2018. It’s been a ride.
Can you tell us a bit about the show?
The show’s story centres around two young people, Eilidh and Arran. They’re from two very different places but go on an adventure set on a fictional Island called Kinnan. Kirsty Findlay and I play these two roles, as well as all the other inhabitants of the island (and a couple of sea creatures)- so get ready for a lot of characters, accents, and dashing from microphone to microphone. I would say the show is technically advanced with the loop pedals but still grounded in that version of storytelling we miss sometimes. A wee bit of magic, some folk-ish tunes, and a story everybody can relate to.
One of the show’s key themes is about Migration. What is it about this theme that is so compelling?
I can struggle to talk about this theme without getting too political, but migration is something that is ever-present in our lives. Whether that’s expats spending their golden years in Costa Del Sol, families fleeing from their home because there’s no other choice, or- as it was for me growing up- moving home every two years because that’s just what you do. Everybody has an emotional connection to the theme of migration, it’s something the UK was literally built upon, and there are small islands just like the one in our show that are facing the real threat of evacuation. Migration is an integral part of how humans exist in a world that’s only getting smaller, and it feels like it’s done justice as a theme in this piece without the audience being bashed over the head with it. I suppose the singing helps.
The show involves looped singing, was this particularly challenging?
Ha! Yes. Kirsty once said it was like learning a new instrument, and she was right. To me, it feels like a cross between a keyboard and a complex piece of machinery, so getting the balance of the technicalities of the loop tech whilst also being present as a musical and an actor is… a handful.
The show’s production team say the show is primal, evocative and profound – what’s it to you?
To me, it feels homely. The storytelling and honesty that we get to share is just so down to earth. Like it was grown. Homely seems a good word to describe it.
You had a great run at the Edinburgh Fringe, tell us about it?
It was a lot. We got to see some amazing shows, especially shows that were on in the same venue as us (Roundabout @ Paines Plough)- Summerhall was lively and buzzing and we were lucky enough to be apart of it. It was weird, though. Most of my friends were there as flyerers or on holiday, but I was definitely there for work. This meant very few late nights, very little alcohol etc, which is extremely different to the Fringe Experience I had when I was a teenager. Overall, it was intense but great. I was glad and sad when it was over.
You were on early in the morning, did that hinder your social life?
Yep. I had pals whose shows were on at 11 pm, finishing past midnight. A 10 am show means soundcheck at 9:30, warming up, hair and makeup, going over notes etc took a good couple of hours every morning. When you’re waking up early to give your audience the best you can every day, things like a social life take a back seat.
Where would you recommend going in Edinburgh for a great coffee?
I am a coffee fiend! The cafe at Summerhall actually did a great flat white! Back Medicine is always a shout if you want coffee and chat, and Machina Expresso is good for a solo or work trip.
Apart from full houses, standing ovations and being feted by the media, what are you looking forward to in London?
Honestly, seeing my friends. After I graduated from RCS, most of my English pals migrated back down south when I stayed in Glasgow, and with busy schedules and expensive train tickets, it’s really hard to see anybody face to face. I’m honestly buzzing to see them again, and have them see the show! I also lived in London for a bit as a teen, and I’ve never had the chance to experience London as an adult. I want to go to all the cool-looking pubs I couldn’t get into at fifteen!
Can you tell us again how we keep up to date with you?
I’m very active on my Instagram @btennick and my twitter @BethanyTennick. You can also follow my company @Ren_Collective where I host and direct events, and share my original work.
Buy tickets for Islander at Southwark Playhouse by clicking below.