Monday, 13 January 2020

REVIEW: Shackleton and his Stowaway at the Park Theatre

Two hundred years after the discovery of the Antarctic, the Park 90 presents the story of Earnest Shackleton's epic voyage south from Buenos Aries via South Georgia to the ice cap in order to complete the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with a crew of 27 men on the wooden hulled Endurance. It is an astonishing story of foolhardy bravery and endeavour to achieve the impossible and survive the forbidding conditions and landscape at sea and on land. It creates equally insurmountable problems to stage such a journey in the tiny black box of Park 90 on an Edinburgh Fringe budget.

Writer Andy Dickinson's play seeks to achieve this feat through two hander play with Shackleton confronted by a Welsh stowaway. We never meet the other twenty six crew members although they feature heavily in the story. The script calls for long passages of narrative to describe first the journey south in 1914 thorough the roaring forties seas until they get trapped in the ice flows. Then the extraordinary escape with three lifeboats and a dingy when the Endurance is crushed and sinks, followed by the journey across the seas to Elephant Island where 22 men are left while six attempt to return to the whaler's on South Georgia. The timeframe spans eighteen months in harsh winters conditions. 

Director Simon Coxall attempts to portray these journeys with the help of some fairly indistinctive white wispy line projections, three pallets, four crates and half a dozen ropes. It leaves a great deal to the imagination and falls short in portraying the challenge when compared to the creative staging of "Touching the void" which so effectively brings to life another amazing tale of human endeavour . It begins frustratingly as Shackleton types on an old manual typewriter which seems to have predictive text as a single stroke completes whole words. The Musical underscore and sounds of cracking ice and creaking wood also fail to add to the tension and interest. 

All this means that there is too much to do for Richard Ede as Shackleton and Elliott Ross as the stowaway, Blackborrow to create the pictures of the expedition despite their heroic best efforts to overcome these technical challenges. There is a rather too much to say and not enough light and shade and they desperately need the appearance of another character such as Captain
Worsley or Tom Crean to add to the tension and storytelling.

This is a show that started at Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 and is a worthwhile story to tell but in this two hour twenty minutes format without the aid of better settings it is simply too much for two people to do to hold our interest. A one hour lecture with original pictures would have been more effective in commemorating this extraordinary expedition.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls | Price of ticket: £18
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