06 August 2007

Cold snap

Last South, Pleasance

“History does not record the names of those who finished in second place.” So wrote Captain Robert Falcon Scott, ironically history’s best remembered runner-up. There are a fair few other ironies revealed during Last South’s presentation of 2 concurrent monologues of the race for the South Pole in 1912, one from Scott, the other from his rival, Roald Amundsen.
Adapted from the writing and diaries of Scott and Amundsen, G.M. Calhoun’s script initially assumes a little too much that the audience has knowledge of the mechanics of a polar expedition but eventually settles into an engaging narrative highlighting the differences in approach, both literally and figuratively, of the British and Norweigan quests for the Pole.
The skill of the scripts and performances of Adrian Lukis as Scott and Jamie Lee as Amundsen is in maintaining interest in the reasons for Amundsen’s “victory” and Scott’s failure. Does Amundsen’s embracing of the concept of a “race” to the pole give him the edge over Scott’s better equipped and funded expedition? Does Scott’s deep seated desire to achieve more than his former subordinate, Ernest Shackleton’s earlier expedition prove his undoing?
The device of having the actors “write” their diaries onstage is a valid one, but spoiled by the prop diaries being quite clearly the script of the piece. In itself that would be no problem, a legitimate device to remain faitfull to the words as written but they should be better disguised.
In the earlier stages the similarity between the tales of trudges through the Antarctic wilderness can slow the pace a little, but the closing contrast between Amundsen’s triumphant return to his ship and the heart-breaking final entries and letters of Scott’s doomed expedition are stunningly well performed.

NTW : The script-diaries, disguise them or lose them!

JTD : The closing passages revealing the softer side of Scott.

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