Further than the Furthest Thing

By Zinnie Harris 30 Apr 2023 - 4 May 2023

A Minack Theatre production

directed by Sita Calvert-Ennals
designed by Rebecca Jane Wood
sound design/composition by Duncan Speakman
Lighting design by Lucy Gaskell

On a remote island in the middle of the South Atlantic tremors disturb the surface of the volcanic lake, but the small population are more concerned with matters above ground. An outsider wants to build a factory that he says will bring work and prosperity to the whole community. However, not everyone agrees and some question his real motives? Behind this other, darker secrets lie concealed, waiting to erupt and blow the community and their way of life apart.

'the perfect setting for this intense drama'

Further Than the Furthest Thing was inspired by the true story of the evacuation of Tristan da Cuhna. Loosely based on true life events, Zinnie Harris’s sensitive portrait of a community in crisis gives voice to all that is lost when two countrymen can no longer talk to each other without first making an appointment.

'this exceptional night of theatre'

The play premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in August, 2000, winning the Peggy Ramsay Award, the John Whiting Award and an Edinburgh Fringe First Award and is now regarded as a modern classic.



Review by Jenni Balow

Home is where the heart is  - even if it is an incredibly remote volcanic island in the South Atlantic, where time has almost stood still for a small community descended from shipwreck sailors, whose survival depends on supplies from a very few passing boats.

The trigger for this compelling award-winning play written by Zinnie Harris, is the 1961 evacuation of the residents of the Crown colony of Tristan da Cunha, a dot of rock that lies 1,700 miles from Cape Town. 

After a dramatic rescue, 264 were re-homed in Hampshire, but they never settled for the easy life on mainland England, and returned after a couple of years, only to face a devastating cyclone in more recent times.

Further Than The Furthest Thing is fictional, but it all feels so real in the hands of five committed professional actors, headed by Catherine Cusack unflinchingly playing the smart, stalwart, stubborn islander, Aunt Mill, with Craig Edwards as Bill her partner, a bearded rock of a figure, with a fragile nature.

They are great together as we adapt our ears to the island's quirky patois, sort of based on early English grammar, or the lack of it, with the addition of the letter 'h' to several words, including h'eggs, as they juggle  with three laid by rare penguins, carelessly making a h'omelette on the stage floor.

Her nephew Francis, Newlyn's very own Jack Brownridge-Kelly, who recently made a memorable impact in the Minack's production of Superstition Mountain, returns to the island, after a trip to Cape Town, with a capitalist magician called Mr Hansen, who has conjured-up big ideas for a factory bottling the island's crawfish.

Andrew French gives the role tremendous focus, not only reversing a cold reception from Mill and Bill, with more than one trick up his sleeve, (I was impressed) but convincing us as a calculating and very stylish businessman, who also has a heart.

Jack deftly switches from easy to please islander, wearing a cosy fairisle jumper, to suited and booted man with cool ambition.

Naomi Preston-Low completes the cast as the hapless Rebecca, well-pregnant with an ill-conceived baby.

Secrets and lies are at the cold heart of this ocean hot spot, as its volcano erupts into their lives, under the impeccable direction of Sita Calvert-Ennals.

Of course, the open air theatre and its legendary Atlantic backdrop is the perfect setting for this intense drama, the stage covered in gritty black volcanic sand, with hissing eruptions of steam lit by stark white light, and hugely enhanced by a thundering, moody, menacing soundtrack composed by Duncan Speakman, with arranger Sarah Anderson.

Cornish designer Rebecca Jane Wood has clad the Minack granite with lavastone, lit by Lucy Gaskell, with the magic tricks pulled out of the hat by Peter Clifford. Rebecca Jane Wood is also spot-on with her costumes, including much-needed cardies and a gorgeous 'camel' coat and slick shoes for Mr Hansen.

Speaking of that coat, the only flaw in this exceptional night of theatre, lay in its length.Getting on for three hours is long at any time of the year, but this early in an open air season it is high risk, as any Minack regular will know.

The production runs until May 4 -  bring hats, gloves, scarves, macs and blankets, that way you will be in for a hot treat.