Skip to main content


Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

There isn't a word spoken in Blue Raincoat Theatre's mesmeric evocation of Irish-born early twentieth century explorer Ernest Shackleton's ill-starred but ultimately heroic Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17. To fill in the back story, Shackleton's attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic on the ship Endurance was blighted when the ship became trapped in ice, was crushed and eventually sunk. This necessitated the crew to man the lifeboats and set up camp on an uninhabited island, while Shackleton led an 800 mile trip to South Georgia to enable a rescue mission.

While there may be four people onstage in Niall Henry's dense, slow-burning production, such a complex tale of derring-do in the face of elemental adversity goes beyond words. Instead, over seventy remarkable minutes, the windswept-looking quartet use little more than a handful of sheets, a model ship and a bunch of wooden poles to carve out a landscape that's bigger than anything a more naturalistic rendering might achieve.

The sheets are bundled to resemble hazardous ice or else spread out to become mountain ranges on which cardboard cut-out miniatures of the crew walk across. Occasionally, with the men marooned, the multi-tasking ensemble of John Carty, Barry Cullen, Brian F Devaney and Sandra O Malley act out slow-motion football games, or else simply look a little lost as they attempt to find their way home.

Jamie Vartan's set design is crucial to the show's meticulous construction, as is Barry McKinney's moody lighting and Joe Hunt's archive video projections as Jocelyn Clarke's dramaturgy keeps the story crisp and even. All this is pulsed by Hunt's equally evocative sound-scape in an unmissable adventure in visual story-telling.

The Herald, June 9th 2017



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …