Antarctica

Tue 28th February – Sat 3rd March 2012

reviews

Michael Beale

at 02:12 on 29th Feb 2012

1agrees

0disagrees

I have a confession to make. I didn't understand it. It doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, it's just I feel there was something that the writer and director were trying to say and I have no idea what it was. However, other than that, I liked it: the atmosphere that the ensemble produced was alienating, menacing, claustrophobic and a more than a little bit weird; making it an enjoyable forty-five minutes. The play revolves round a small point in time and space; desolate, cold and alone. The audience observe the existence of three people living in this reclusive place, living out their cold, hopeless lives until one day they are visited by a Stranger with a Zeppelin who makes them an offer they can't seem to refuse. The rest is the rest of the play.

The writing itself is obviously very important as this is part of the New Writing Festival, emphasis on 'Writing' and the writing is good; it's clever. Possibly, as I have already stated, too clever. Sometimes I felt like I was drowning in similes and metaphors and references to other cultural things and this made me uncomfortable, which may have been the intent: the bizarre language added great emphasis to the already menacing atmosphere produced by the characters. But, along with this effect, it was also distracting: I was still trying to decipher a line that had been said five minutes previously while the rest of the play was zooming ahead.

The ensemble itself was strong and well directed. In particular Simon Devenport (Johnny) and Ellie Geldard (Cath) grabbed my attention in what was the best scene of the whole play for me – it involved sexy porridge. Bess Roche (Lucy) and Phil Judd (Simon) also had their own scenes which involved particularly effective screaming and shouting. Judd played the 'man of the house' role, a slow, befuddled character in contrast to the quick-witted Johnny. He kept to his character well, providing a strong backbone from which the rest of the characters could be supported. His opening monologue involved death, lust and decay and held me at first, however, it went on a bit long and, I must admit got a bit bored, maybe I'm stupid. His most exciting scene was well performed, Judd delivered just he right amount of anger, and excellent stage fighting skills, which is why his next actions frustrated me: it felt as though he'd just given up his role as defender of the household. Geldard, the despairing wife, looks excellent at looking dead inside; the desperation of the situation in which Simon and Cath live in is highlighted during the pre-show itself: the actors stared out into some emotional unknown while the icy blue lights and white boxes chilled the room, it was striking. Devenport was an excellent slime-ball, confident, quick, he moved round the stage with ease. There were a few apparent slips in delivery, breaking the flow of the performance, but other than that his performance was excellent, and when combined with Geldard the two took sexual tension to a whole new level, making the small Burton Taylor even more claustrophobic than it usually is. Finally, Roche, a smaller part in comparison to the others. Roche did a good job of maintaining the innocence of character, providing a fresh contrast to the darker mood of the others. Perhaps it was the fault of the writing or directing, but it was almost impossible to pinpoint her age: was she a ditsy (yes we use ditsy in this millennium) teenager or a younger, more innocent girl? It was impossible to judge, making interpretation of her father and Johnny's actions a bit of an issue.

Aside from a few technical slips and delivery mistakes, the play was well put together and presumably managed to achieve the mood that was intended by the playwright.

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