Review – The Captive, Finborough Theatre

Five years in London without a single visit to the fringe and then I go twice in one week. And I was wearing Converse this time. I’m finally a bona fide hipster.

Yes, I was at my favourite new London venue again last night for the first preview of The Captive, which runs in rep alongside Saturn Returns on Sunday and Monday evenings.

Half Scottish patriotic poetry, half colonial guilt tale this is a rather odd play from Ben “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” Ellis. The plot follows Scottish settlers in 1840s Australia as they search for a woman missing after a shipwreck, but it encompasses wider themes including the nature of morality, savagery, religion and language, as well as being a well plotted expedition through a little known chunk of colonial history.

This is a smart play, so much so that at the end of the first half you might conclude, with some justification, that it is head over heart, with the bland scenes between the protagonist and his wife being the only point to engage with emotionally.

After the interval (during which some people, god knows how, managed to source alcohol to take back in to the bar-less Finborough) things step up a notch, including a beautifully delivered soliloquy by Scott Ainslie in fading light which is genuinely moving in such a small space and a final revelation which is both funny and shocking.

The performance loses nothing from its makeshift staging on a hastily converted Saturn Returns set and the performances themselves are, more often than not, very good indeed.

After something of a lacklustre start (full disclosure: this was a first preview) this reveals itself to be a clever, thoughtful and – largely thanks to the intimate staging – touching play.