Blue Raincoat’s new play provocatively commemorates one of the most celebrated tales of the age of polar exploration. Precisely 100 years ago, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was trapped and destroyed by pack ice in the Antarctic, prompting a daring escape and rescue attempt by Shackleton and a small handful of his crew.
In staging these events, director Niall Henry’s most daring move is to take this epic saga and make it small. Telling the story with miniature boats, some of which are animated by rod-puppetry, he finds a scale that — far from diminishing the experience of Shackleton and his cohorts — actually magnifies it in all its raw intensity.
To this purpose, the miniatures and puppetry are wonderfully complemented by the use of light, sound, and a spare, but brilliantly shape-shifting, set.
The piece is largely unconcerned with the psychology of its protagonists, and is not bothered about testifying to any grand myth of human heroism.
Rather, the show communicates a simpler, yet more elusive element of the Shackleton saga — what it must have felt like.
It does so by salvaging and staging various images and gestures: the silhouette of men at contemplation in a tent; the brittle human movements of a hike through freezing winds; the exhilarating swirls of a small boat in treacherous waters.
The ‘story’ thus becomes not one of man’s endurance, but about the thousand, beautiful little durations that inform it.
A deeply moving work, the feeling it transmits to the audience is one of strange serenity.
We are left with the sense that, even in the midst of hardship and struggle, the rhythms and repetitions of such a hard grind can — if only in brief flashes — produce a redemptive sense of peace and harmony.
- Until Apr 7