Following The Everyman Company’s success with Fiddler on The Roof, they have now taken on a very different challenge for their second production.
Manfred Karge’s The Conquest of the South Pole is a play that if nothing else, shows the flexibility and versatility of this group of actors. Director Nick Bagnall has done well to keep this quite complex piece as simple as possible; with so much fast-paced dialogue, it is reassuring that the visual offering remains subtle and clever. Acute movements and one-off props keep the eyes occupied while the mind is left to focus on the real issues of the story.
We begin with a scene that sets the mood for the next 95 minutes; an image of despair. More important to note however is how it is very much a cry for help. These cries continue throughout, and with our jobless heroes led by the loquacious Slupianek (Dean Nolan), they are not only focused in a direction but towards a destination.
Inspired by a book but more so his gut, Splupianek fights to keep the group pressing on. Nolan is electric in his performance and his portrayal of battles with mental health and unemployment are as stunning as they are relevant. “We do failure better; every trip to the job centre is a failure,” quips Buscher (Liam Tobin) – a true admittance of the sorry state the friends have found themselves in; where the make-believe is more meaningful than real life.
This script may have been written in the 1980’s, but the issues this play tackles are as present today as they were in Karge’s world. The struggle to find work and in turn a purpose, are masterfully paralleled with the re-enactment of Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole.
Laura Dos Santos is magnificent as Braukmann’s wife. Offering a sense of sanity amidst the chaos, she is quick to remark on the folly of her husband and his friends. Her own misdemeanours are far more subtle likewise tragic. The play ends as it begins, with a lonely cry for help. Although, maybe not quite in the way the audience would expect.
With tickets available until Saturday 8th April, ‘The Conquest of the South Pole” is further evidence of the talent and skill of The Everyman Company.
Photographs by Gary Calton.