Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
Cast: Patrick Brennan, George Caple, Laura Dos Santos, Emily Hughes, Dean Nolan, Zelina Rebeiro, Keddy Sutton, Liam Tobin.
The dangers of perceived unemployment, of having a creative spark inside a brain that has nothing it seems to offer the greater society and all because the world has no tolerance for romanticism, of mucking about, of playing with the imagination if it means escaping from the so called real world. It is a nightmare for some, they cannot get their heads around the idea of escapism, to others it a necessary fact of their existence, that the real world means nothing because in some sort of way it only offers misery, no chance to ever be the hero of their own story; there is no mountain to climb, there is no way to say The Conquest of the South Pole is their right.
Directed by the fantastic Nick Bagnall and translated from the work of Manfred Karge by Tinch Minter and Anthony Vivis, The Conquest of the South Pole is a production that carries on the exceptional work laid down by the new Everyman Theatre Rep Company in the brilliant Fiddler on the Roof and one that brings to mind early Harold Pinter, especially in the bleakness of The Birthday Party or indeed the sharp exclusion of the working class found in Ibsen.
It is the feeling of fear, especially in the introduction of Patrick Brennan as the Nazi quoting Rudi, a man so abhorrent in his thinking, that marks the play out as something other than a being able to stir the passions and see beyond the text; in each moment there is the uncomfortable, the chase of the dream and the horrible smack across the face of social realism, that nobody in a society should be seen as doing nothing with all the hours available to them.
It is an unnatural thought, one driven by propaganda and outdated Victorian ethics and yet at the heart of this seemingly non-compliance with society’s norms and attitudes lays the idea that without Time doing nothing, then dreams die, so consumed by the pursuit of money and materialism, radical imagination crumbles and vanishes.
It is to the cast’s eternal credit that they take this particular play in their stride, that they have taken note of Nick Bagnall’s fondness and search for realism and truth, of offering the working aspirations of the common person and illuminating them to a point where dreams can come true and even if they don’t they can at least keep you warm at night.
In particular much must be made of Dean Nolan’s Slupianek and Liam Tobin’s Buscher, their willingness to push the boundaries of such truth is both exhilarating and defining, a serious sense of gratitude to all the cast for taking on what can be seen as a difficult but enlightening production; a play in which the South Pole may not have been conquered except for in dreams but in which the hearts of many were captured.
Ian D. Hall