Has anyone actually read the whole of Moby Dick?
While it might have been revolutionary when it first came out in 1851, it’s not exactly the most thrilling of reads, with endless lists and descriptions of sea-life, equipment and how to keep ship. We were dubious as to how one could translate this epic, 600-page text onto stage, let alone bring to life a giant whale.
Which all goes to show, never judge a play by the book on which it's based. Simple8’s production of Moby Dick is faultless.
Performed by an all-male ensemble cast, this play is quick, polished and ever so deliciously simple. Simple8’s distinguishing quality is without doubt the live music and sound effects that are all created onstage. Four-part harmonies and fist punching abound, and the play moves fluidly from action to song to action again in an almost cinematic way. And don't be alarmed by the decrepit state of the stage when you arrive; the company builds up their set throughout, from the rubble that is apparently the recycled set from their previous play. The evening was, in one word, organic.
Simple8 build environmental sustainability into their work, having produced London’s first ecologically sustainable play with The Living Unknown Soldier, which had a carbon footprint of 3.4 tonnes CO2 (just don’t ask us how they worked that out). They work in partnership with the Arcola Theatre, itself a beautiful building that monitors its carbon emissions, and strives to create awareness and become carbon neutral (there’s a bike in the foyer that turns your spins into electrical energy, though lord knows who has the strength for that after a glass of wine). The company source all their sets from local recycling networks, and use a hydrogen fuel cell for their performance lighting. As ‘theatre’ and ‘environment’ aren’t usually associated with one another, the work that both Simple8 and Arcola Theatre do is truly pioneering, and their flawless reviews reflect this effort.
So: solid play, gripping storytelling and an inspiring company and theatre. And as to whether they actually fit a whale on stage? You’ll have to find out for yourself.