Shackleton and his Stowaway at Park Theatre
Shackleton and his Stowaway is a two-hander which sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. Jez Bond, artistic director of Park Theatre, saw that version of the show. So supportive was he, presumably, that he gave Stolen Elephant Theatre the opportunity to play in the Park90 space. The show has been extended in length since its Edinburgh debut, but one still wonders what it was about the show which drew Bond to it as it lacks the captivation that a piece about the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration should have.
Playwright and producer Andy Dickon dramatises the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-17, told from the perspective of the leader (Richard Ede) and stowaway Perce Blackborrow (Elliott Ross). It borrows a few historical facts but is largely fictionalised and documents the journey from Buenos Aires to the sinking of the Endurance (when it gets trapped in ice) and the return to South Georgia, including a rescue of the stranded crew on Elephant Island.
The performance, however, lacks the excitement implied by the narrative. The details of the journey are largely narrated and physicalised by the performers, but Ede’s delivery, in particular, comes across as artificial and affected, and it becomes difficult for an audience to empathise with the perils the original crew would have faced. Even technical attempts to dramatise the treacherous reality are hampered. The video designs of Enrique Muñoz Jiminez, with some lovely atmospheric animation, are washed out on the theatre’s walls.
The main fault, though, lies within the fact the relationship is primarily constructed in the vein of a comedy duo where most of the gags come from the class difference of an experienced explorer and a callow Welsh teenager. The script, though, lacks the wit and comic craft to such an extent that the idea comes off as half-baked, despite the valiant efforts of Elliott Ross, who is the most compelling because of the gusto he injects into performance.
All in all, therefore, like the expedition itself, Shackleton and his Stowaway is largely a failure. The roots of success, however, can sometimes grow out of failure, and for Ross, this reviewer can envision a bright future.
Photos: Elena Molina
Shackleton and his Stowaway is at Park Theatre from 8th January until 1st February 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.