Shackleton and his Stowaway
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: