Monday, 30 April 2012
Theatre review: The Conquest of the South Pole
To be fair, Unwin has assembled an exciting main cast (left to right: O-T Fagbenle, Mark Field, Sam Crane and Andrew Gower) and looking at the website promo page it seems they've now amended it to mention a bit about the play itself, rather than just the fact that someone you've heard of was in it, once, but isn't now. The four who are present play a group of unemployed, bored and in Seiffert's (Gower) case suicidal young German men, who try to deal with their situation by reenacting Amundsen's journey to the South Pole in their attic. At one point Buscher (Field) argues that maybe they should be following in Shackleton's footsteps instead, since his failure better mirrors their own situation.
On the surface of it the silliness of recreating an epic Antarctic journey in an attic, with a washing line representing the frozen wastes, should have been right up my street. But none of it hit the right spot for me, despite the actors giving it a lot of welly. I just didn't care about the characters, or see what point Karge is making by having them escape their reality in this particular way. Ian hated the show so much he had to let out an angry yell afterwards (though only when we were safely away from the rest of the audience - it was press night so the adoring friends and family might have lynched any dissenting voices.) Personally I found it another case of a talented cast deserving better than the play they've found themselves in. At least unlike some shows, The Conquest of the South Pole couches its obscure pretensions in humour, and maybe if that humour had actually worked for me things would have been different. But I found the play increasingly dull, and didn't care enough about any of it to dig through the layers of meaning that the author has presumably hidden in there somewhere.
The Conquest of the South Pole by Manfred Karge in a translation by Tinch Minter and Anthony Vivis is booking until the 26th of May at the Arcola Theatre's Studio 1.
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes straight through.