Theatre Review - Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor

LAST year at Park Theatre, Paul Morrissey sent chills down our spine with When Darkness Falls. His latest play explores the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers, known as wickies, from Eilean Mor, the largest of the Flannan Islands (also called the Seven Hunters) in the Outer Hebrides.

On December 26, 1900, a small ship travelled to Eilean Mor. Apart from its wickies, the remote island was uninhabited. When the crew stepped ashore they realised that the light was extinguished, the tower unlocked, and the three keepers had vanished without a trace.

Trying to ascertain the men’s fate, they discover overturned chairs, a stopped clock and half-eaten food on the table. The fire is cold and two of men’s coats are missing. The final entry in the log book is dated December 15.

Numerous accounts have evolved over the years to explain the wickies’ mysterious disappearance and it has become the subject of songs, poems and novels. Now Morrissey reimagines this true story for the stage and exploits much of the folklore surrounding the islands and the alleged hauntings of Eilean Mor to create an immersive, character-driven piece.

Were the men swept out to sea by a giant wave or did the ghosts that supposedly haunt the isle play a part in the wickies’ fate?

It’s brilliantly acted – hard-drinking Donald MacArthur (Graeme Dalling) taunts the newest recruit Thomas Marshall (Jamie Quinn), a fisherman by trade, while the senior keeper, James Ducat (Ewan Stewart), tries to keep the peace. To pass the time, they tell each other stories and sing sea shanties.

Morrissey intertwines the supernatural and psychological to great effect. Shilpa T-Hyland ramps up the eerie atmosphere helped by Bethany Gupwell’s lighting, John Bulleid’s illusions and Nik Paget-Tomlinson’s sound.

Niall Bailey’s evocative music and Zoe Hurwitz’s stunning set are also highlights in this haunting play.

Until December 31

Orignally published by Islington Tribune