With a national Autumn 2020 tour postponed, the team behind Islander: A New Musical have released the stunning original cast album instead. Available now, the cast recording is performed by Olivier Award Nominated, Kirsty Findlay (Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) and Bethany Tennick (Stage Debut Award Nominated for her performance in the show’s Southwark Playhouse run). Bethany and Kirsty both spoke with The Fountain about the album and other projects that they are working on.

TF: Can you tell us about Islander, what can we expect from the album?

Kirsty: Islander is really a story about connection- specifically connection to your home but also what that means with regards to other people around you. The music on the album is so earthy and grounded and brings that idea of connection out really well – in all its forms. The idea of just two voices seems simple but it’s actually incredibly complex with Islander and that comes across on the album.

Bethany: Islander is a story about home, belonging, and friendship. It follows a whole host of characters from the small island, Kinnan, but it focuses mainly on Eilidh and the mysterious Arran. It’s a modern folk tale with a twist, and it think that’s reflected in the album. The whole thing is a cappella, with myself and Kirsty Findlay playing all the roles. Finn Anderson’s score is stunning, and perfectly blends contemporary musical theatre with Scottish folk traditions. If you want sick harmonies, loads of fun characters, and some modern folk tunes, then this is the album for you.

TF: What was it about Islander that inspired you to say yes to the project?

Kirsty: Islander was a really special project to work on. I’d never been involved in a production right from the beginning so to have the opportunity to be a part of that process was something I just couldn’t say no to. The calibre of the people involved was just so high that I knew it was going to be something special. Also anything including Scottish folklore is an automatic yes for me! 

Bethany: Ha! Honestly, it was my first job, and the thought of saying no never really crossed my mind. However, I did have a choice whether or not to go back (we’ve done three different iterations of the show for the tour, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and off-West End), and of course I did it all again. I love the show and the creative team behind it, it speaks to me as a person- that type of old-fashioned storytelling and real connection with the audience. It was an active choice to go back and do the show again each time, and I’m so glad I did.

TF: There have been many challenges this year, that make album specifically a 2020 project, how have you found those?

Kirsty: This year has clearly been a massive blow to everyone in the arts. It’s left this big hole in our hearts and lives that we’ve all been trying desperately to fill with creative outlets at home. With the Islander recording we were very lucky that it was recorded before the pandemic hit the UK so in a way it was nice to release something during this time that has absolutely no ties to the current situation. It was a nice throw back for us and, hopefully, a breath of fresh sea air for others. 

Bethany: I think the feeling of extra competition? The cast album is an at-home experience, it’s a way to ‘see’ the show without going to a theatre, and you have full control over when you listen, and how many times. Unfortunately, almost all theatre is like that now. The rise in audiobooks, albums, EPs, online shows… the world is full, it seems, of things being taken online in response to current times. Of course, we recorded this way back in January, when we had no idea about the potential impact of COVID19, so the cast album doesn’t feel like a response to me. Rather, it feels like a call back to better times. I think the main challenge was getting it edited during lockdown, and how to share it with people when you can’t leave your house. But the team have been so amazing at overcoming these challenges, so

TF: What is your plan for the remainder of the year, what other projects are you working on?

Kirsty: I’ve got a few creative projects lined up for the rest of the year which I’m incredibly grateful for however it’s difficult right now to pin any hopes on them when the situation seems to be ever changing. At the minute I’m trying to focus more on things in my life that I have more control over and accepting the things that I don’t. Over the last wee while I’ve been doing some online courses and practising my musical instruments which I’ve really been enjoying! I’m trying to take this time to remind myself what really matters and of why I wanted to work in the arts in the first place which I think is more important now than ever. 

Bethany: I’m actually releasing a single this month! Friday the 30th of October, my new single Bleed comes out anywhere you get your music. It’s an a cappella piece (oh, how on-brand) and it’s about my experience of womanhood. It was a commission for a short film, and I thought, why not release it? I’m also focusing heavily on my own writing. I recently won Best Score during the 48 Hour Film Project, and I’m working on a new Scottish actor-muso piece called Thread. Lockdown has been hard, but one of the linings of having no performance work is that it allowed me the time to write my own music, which I just love to do. 

Islander: A New Musical cast album is available now through Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and all major online music distributors.