Thursday, 11 October, 2001

David S Young’s new play is receiving its British premiere at the Savoy theatre and what a dull affair it is!!

The story is set in April 1912 when Captain Scott was struggling to the South Pole. This play, which is a work of fiction, concerns six men who find themselves cut off from the expedition with no winter clothing and only seven weeks of rations left. This is not enough for them to survive, as it will take them six months to reach safety, unless they are rescued.

This play is about the struggle for survival as they search for food by hunting seals and penguins. They have to learn to cope with living in close confinement with the resultant lack of privacy leading to the inevitable clash of personalities, intensified by their ever worsening physical, and more importantly, mental health.

The problem with the play is that it is too slow and there isn’t enough action or quality writing to sustain the two and half hours the show labours. It was never going to be an easy story to entertain as the play mainly takes place in a small cave under the ice. And the ending is also disappointing in that it is never known how they escaped or whether they were rescued. So there is no euphoria at any time. It is all gloom and doom from the men, which results in a depressing drama. Not that I am against bleak dramas provided they are well written!!

There is no criticising the six actors, Mark Bazeley (Lt Campbell), Stephen Boxer (Priestly), Darrell D'Silva (Abbott), Jason Flemyng (Browning), Eddie Marsan (Dickason) and Ronan Vibert (Dr Levick). They perform exceedingly well and give the play some credibility, but they alone cannot prop up what is essentially a poor script.

Rae Smith’s set design with a icy looking platform that lifts up to reveal a cave where the men shelter along with howls of winds, deftly captures the environment, but some snow would have added to the atmosphere!

This new drama has received luke-warm to poor notices from the popular press… BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “Antarctica has its reflective moments, its amusing ones, its interestingly weird ones and even some that display a respect for the survivors of what was….But is there any good reason for it to be a memory-play…No.” CHARLES SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “Unfortunately, Antarctica isn't likely to enter the ranks of great polar literature. There are strong moments here, and the Boys' Own adventure element is irresistible, but the play is muddled to the point of downright incompetence.” MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, “David Young's Canadian play does a commendable job in telling the story of six men cut off from Captain Scott's expedition to the south pole in 1912 and marooned on Inexpressible island: what is harder to fathom is the metaphorical meaning Young wishes us to draw.” He goes on to say, “For all its atmospheric power, however, the movies are better equipped than theatre to deal with polar exploration.” NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says is it is “Frozen waste of time.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDANT says, “Richard Rose's strongly cast and vividly acted ensemble production, can't help but grip.” MICHAEL COVENEY for THE DAILY MAIL says, “The South Pole may well be the safest place on Earth at the moment, but this freezing flapdoodle left me feeling decidedly sub-zero.” JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "This is a most extraordinary play....Strongly recommended."

The play is interesting in as much as it is a reminder of what such men had to endure, but frankly it is too boring to recommend.

(Darren Dalglish)

Links to full reviews from newspapers...

Daily Telegraph
The Independent
The Times
The Guardian
Daily Mail
Sunday Times

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