[author-post-rating] (4/5 stars) Amy Mason and Eddie Argos used to be a couple. Now they’re not. She’d almost forgotten their one trip away together, to the Isle of Wight, until a particular shade of blue reminded her of the particular colour of the sky on that holiday – so she sent Eddie an email, to see what he remembered. This is the result: an appropriately lo-fi gem of a show, with her speaking and him singing (these days, Eddie’s better known as the lead singer of Art Brut), about their relationship as it was, or as each of them saw it, back in the 1990s.
This is art and life all tied up. Some elements of the show, like the postcards they would have sent from the Isle of Wight to their younger selves, are clearly fictional additions. But the story it is based on and the photos that accompany it are absolutely real.
It makes for an interesting, charming and slightly upsetting examination of the way we experience the world around us, from small things, like a fairground ride, to larger things, like a love affair. Amy claims on several occasions that Eddie’s memories of an event or a time are “wrong”, though of course it is subjective. Amy remembers the long wait for the bus in the rain; Eddie remembers the chips they got while they were waiting.
It’s a story that is both romantic and a little regretful, subdued, perhaps because we all know the ending. Plus, as much as they loved each other, their relationship was often miserable, plagued by the crippling depression of Amy’s teenage years and the constant poverty they suffered. He used to call in sick for her at work, excusing her with flu and stomach bugs and once, simply and sincerely, with, “She’s mad!” As an exploration of the ecstasy and lunacy of being a teenager, when all the highs were higher and all the lows so very much lower, it is terrifyingly on point.
It’s difficult to know how reliable the two of them are as narrators and how much of what they say is real. For instance, the expressions they watch each other with are fit to break your heart: when Amy speaks, Eddie looks at her as if he still loves her; when Eddie sings, Amy looks quite simply sad. But they must know that we are watching them.
As a very personal story about the beginning and end of a formative relationship, The Islanders is heartfelt without ever being overly-emotional – not least because Mason, a very engaging speaker, is hilariously dead-pan at all times. But as an exploration of whether even our shared experiences can ever belong to us jointly, or just to each of us separately, this is a show that will stay with you well after you leave Amy and Eddie’s company.
The Islanders is at Underbelly until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.