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Shackleton and his Stowaway

★★★

Park Theatre

Shackleton and his Stowaway

Shackleton and his Stowaway

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 10th January 2020

★★★

 

“an extremely interesting and watchable play”

 

After being lucky enough myself to explore north of the Arctic Circle just two months ago, I eagerly arrived at the Park Theatre for a trip to Antarctica.

This play by Andy Dickinson and directed by Simone Coxall tells the story of Ernest Shackleton, who along with his crew, attempts to sail his ship Endurance across the Antarctic. His plans are immediately thrown into chaos as a young stowaway appears on board. Much of the story then focuses on the relationship between Shackleton and the stowaway and how this develops as the voyage progresses and doesn’t exactly go according to plan.

The stage is set (Kajeel Patel) using wooden crates and trucks, along with ropes and sheets to depict various parts of the ship and later, tents and rocks on the pack ice; these are well utilised. A ladder and the gantry are used to strong effect to establish different levels on The Endurance.

Lighting (Pablo Baz) is well designed, there is also clever use of projection (Enrique Muñoz) with snow and other icy shots. I would like to have seen more blizzards rather than gently falling flakes and maybe the occasional map to depict the distance and location that these adventurers explored. Sound (Dominic Brennan) is well thought out with waves, wind, creaking joints and some suitable dramatic music. Again, maybe the wind could have been stronger, howling gales could have added to the bleakness of the locations.

Richard Ede has some great moments as Shackleton. I thought when he first met the stowaway, he took this a little too much in his stride. He was strongest in his monologues. His opening dialogue beautifully set the scene and introduced us to the drive and motivation behind Shackleton’s journey, his long speech as he desperately searched for help over hundreds of miles, was quite inspiring. Elliott Ross as the Welsh stowaway was a nice contrast and he brought a huge amount of youthful energy to all his scenes, until the freezing conditions got the better of him.

Despite there being twenty seven men on board, this is actually a two-hander. The actors had a nice chemistry and a decision had clearly been made to bring out the humour in this script, I think possibly a little too much. There is definitely a place for the lighter side to be explored, but this is beautifully poetic script and the play was at its best when the drama was highlighted.

Act Two focussed on the time after the ship had been crushed by the ice and eventually sunk. I would have loved to have seen the actors dressed with some frost bitten make-up and I could not understand how in one of the most frozen and remote areas of the World, they were not wearing gloves.

This is an inspirational story in many ways and considering the helpless situation that Shackleton found himself in, it was remarkable how he mostly brought his crew home. Stolen Elephant Theatre has produced an extremely interesting and watchable play. I definitely felt like I’d been on a voyage, although I was not entirely convinced that I’d been all the way to the Antarctic.

Hard to believe that this story took place only just over one hundred years ago. Now, due to climate change, some of these unnavigable, remote, frozen areas, that caused Shackleton and his crew such trauma, are disappearing before our very eyes.

 

Reviewed by Chris White

Photography by Elena Molina

 


Shackleton and his Stowaway

Park Theatre until 1st February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Summer Rolls | ★★★½ | June 2019
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Weatherman | ★★★ | August 2019
Black Chiffon | ★★★★ | September 2019
Mother Of Him | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Fast | ★★★★ | October 2019
Stray Dogs | | November 2019
Sydney & The Old Girl | ★★★★ | November 2019
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | December 2019

 

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Up the Bunty

Up the Bunty!

★★★

Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Up the Bunty

Up the Bunty!

Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 13th December 2019

★★★

 

“In worrying and troublesome times, I really can’t think of a better way of spending a Friday night”

 

Following a successful run in the summer as part of The Camden Fringe, ‘Up The Bunty’, returns to The Lion & Unicorn Theatre for a short seasonal revival. Fitting really, as the plot focuses on a theatrical reunion for a little known 1970’s soap opera, ‘The Soaparetta’s’.

Producer, Harry Hepworth has managed to recall most of the stars of the original cast and with a couple of added newcomers, puts them through a less than successful rehearsal period, before packing them up on a train for a run at a theatre in Southend. On arriving in the town, members of the company start disappearing and it seems we have a psychopath on our hands.

The set consisted of a table dressed with a polka dot cloth and some crockery along with half a dozen stacked chairs. All these were well used to depict various scenes and the uncluttered set gave the actors plenty of room to express themselves and they certainly didn’t hold back.

Lighting was fine, although blackout timings were slightly off a couple of times, projected films showing scenes from past episodes of The Soaparetta’s along with talking heads, were very well made and timing for these was excellent.

Most of the budget for this show must have been blown on wigs. The characters were so far over the top that rather than stepping into caricature, these actors jumped in with both feet. This was obviously a decision made by director Suzy Catliff and why not? The whole show was so frantic and loud, I would love for there to have been a few moments of quiet to balance out the frenetic energy.

The cast clearly had a ball, with Welsh, American, Spanish, luvvie and bimbo characters, it was a little bit like watching that other 1970’s series ‘Mind Your Language’, there was nothing subtle about any of these performances. Michael Stafford Wells was the pompous and overbearing director Harry, Jack Donald amusing as the gay actor Brian with Cameron Butterwick playing the Spaniard Juan-Two, although I enjoyed his performance as PC World a whole lot more. Jess Nesling amused me no end as she tried to find her motivation for being an albatross, Lucie Anne Neale was a little underused as Go-Go but had a lovely singing voice with Olivia Thompson, who wrote the play, loving every minute of playing Annie and was excellent in the final scene. Let’s not forget Bunty The Beaver, oh what trouble a glove puppet can cause, although I doubt Gordon The Gopher and Ed The Duck will be losing too much sleep.

Every character seen as a talking head, had a ridiculous name such as Dickie Ticker and Miss Hope Less, again fitting the style that this company were clearly going for. As much as I admired these video clips, I did find that they caused the action on stage to be a little stop start.

Musical numbers were fairly sparse, although I loved ‘I’d Love To See You Up The Nile’ and ‘Anyone Can Be A Psycho’.

I’m not going to remember this as a theatrical masterpiece, a lot of the publicity describes the play as bonkers and I’m not going to argue with that. It did however make me laugh at its pure silliness. In worrying and troublesome times, I really can’t think of a better way of spending a Friday night. I just wish they’d handed out tacky Bunty keyrings as we left.

 

Reviewed by Chris White

Photography by Jamie Spindlove

 


Up the Bunty!

Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 15th December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Cut | ★★ | November 2018
BackPAGE | ★★½ | February 2019
Like You Hate Me | ★★★ | April 2019
Mama G’s Story Time Roadshow | ★★★★★ | May 2019
River In The Sky | ★★½ | May 2019
Euan | ★★★★ | July 2019
A Shoddy Detective & The Art Of Deception | ★★ | August 2019
Blue Tights, Red Knickers And An ‘S’ On Her Vest | ★★★ | August 2019
Camp | ★★★ | August 2019
The Death Of Ivan Ilyich | ★★ | August 2019

 

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