Shackleton And His Stowaway Is A Tale Of Glorious Failure
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Whether it's the Odyssey or the Lord of the Rings, an epic adventure tale isn't about the destination, man, it's about the journey.
That's just as well in Shackleton & His Stowaway, since the real Antarctic quest the play depicts — Ernest Shackleton's effort of 1914-17 — was a fabulous failure. But Andy Dickinson's nicely produced two-hander imagines this ill-fated trip was at least a bonding experience for the great voyager and a young tag-along who found his way onto the Endurance ship.
"I. AM. SHACKLETON," booms Richard Ede repeatedly in an entertaining interpretation of the explorer's mad ego. He bullies the 18-year-old Welshman (Elliott Ross) into menial chores the second this "idiot" stowaway is discovered (in a scene which somewhat lacks in dramatic ceremony, truth be told). But as the expedition founders in the ice, their unlikely friendship grows.
Actually, more convincing than this odd coupling is their imagined battle for survival. In limited space and with little more than ropes and scraps of wood, the pair create an heroic struggle across vast glaciers. The second half is filled with poetic monologues from Ede, telling of "sheer white savagery" and other "atrocities" of hostile nature. The play occasionally gets frozen in tonal monotony, and might have been uplifted with more focus on Shackleton's noble motivations to save his crew. But there are laughs in the wilderness, with Ross's earnest wonderings about life back in Newport.
Shackleton & His Stowaway, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP, £18. Until 1 February
Last Updated 16 January 2020