Tag Archives: Stolen Elephant Theatre

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


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Shackleton and his Stowaway

Cervantes Theatre

Shackleton and his Stowaway

Shackleton and his Stowaway

Cervantes Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd April 2019



“has so much potential, but sadly, in many ways, is left adrift”


Adventures to unexplored lands, crossing ferocious seas, battling snowstorms, escaping death – the Endeavour expedition to the Antarctic in 1914 should be a thrilling story to tell. However, Stolen Elephant Theatre’s current production, Shackleton and His Stowaway loses any possible edge-of your-seat moments, providing a colourless and bland take on the heroic tale.

Setting off from Buenos Aires, revered explorer Ernest Shackleton is ready to lead his new expedition through the Antarctic on the apt-named ship the Endeavour. Soon after casting off, an eighteen year old Welsh stowaway is found hiding within the bows. Shackleton takes a shining to the lad and before long drums up a friendship between them. However, the stowaway’s admiration for the great explorer begins to dissolve as Shackleton’s poor judgement call leads to the Endeavour being trapped in the polar ice pack, eventually breaking up and sinking. Stranded in unimaginable freezing temperatures, the newly formed friendship is put under strain as the need to survive takes precedence.

The biggest let down of the production is the writing, which feels as lost in the wilderness as its subject matter. Often stagnant, it lacks much action – most of the exciting parts of the expedition being described in past tense by the characters, rather than actually performed. The modern, colloquial language jars with its 1914-1916 time period, often making you question the play’s believability. Much doubt is also thrown at the authenticity of Shackleton and the stowaway’s relationship that seems far too friendly and on a level footing, status-wise. By them being too pally too soon, writer Andy Dickinson gets stuck in the mud, not being able to display a progression in the characters’ friendship, with the play finishing on a rather flaccid note.

With their best efforts, actors Edward Cartwright (Shackleton) and Tom Taplin (The Stowaway) try to flesh out their characters as best they can. You certainly cannot fault their determination in trying to squeeze something juicy out of the otherwise lacklustre script. Taplin’s happy-go-lucky, wise cracking stowaway is the most compelling to watch, however, this is most likely helped by the fact that Taplin lucked out on having the better written character. Cartwright struggles through with the two-dimensional Shackleton, but ultimately is defeated by the shortcomings of the writing.

An element that did help to lift the production was director Enrique Muñoz’s use of visual effects, adding projections onto the walls and stage floor during transitional scenes. Maps of the colossal journey through the Antarctic, as well as photographs from the actual expedition, offer proof in how courageous all the men were.

Shackleton and His Stowaway has so much potential, but sadly, in many ways, is left adrift. The actors try to salvage what they can, but with some poor directional choices and the fundamental script being far from engaging enough, they are on a sinking ship (no pun intended). This epic tale becomes quite the epic fail.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography courtesy Stolen Elephant Theatre



Shackleton and his Stowaway

Cervantes Theatre until 18th April


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Little Pony | ★★★★ | June 2018
Ay, Carmela! | ★★★ | September 2018
Yerma | ★★ | November 2018


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