Project Arts Centre
It was a rainy, stormy Dublin evening on the opening night of Shackleton – fitting weather for this show. Blue Raincoat, hailing from Sligo, are Ireland’s oldest theatre company and their patron is the President himself, Michael D Higgins. I expected big things from this show, but the sheer beauty and brilliance of it still took me by surprise. A tumultuous experience of lights, sound, and flawless puppetry unfolded over the eighty minutes.
The show follows the story of Ernest Shackleton, famed Antarctic explorer, and his crew of twenty four men and women who journeyed through the hazardous terrain with “small wages, bitter cold…safe return doubtful.” The narrative is played out through puppetry so cleverly and perfectly choreographed that you can hardly bear to blink. The absolute harmony of sound design, light design and movement is something totally wondrous to behold, with the actors capturing every ounce of your attention with even their tiniest movements.
Photographs and text were projected on a white sheet hanging as if from a mast in the upstage right, which caused some incredible reactions. The impact of seeing the actors convey the historical struggle on stage, only to then be confronted by images of the people they are portraying, who did in fact struggle through these conditions, had a real emotional impact on the audience.
Though this production brought no political message to the theatre, it brought an escapism which the theatre has been lacking of late. The creation of convincing and consuming environments has often been disregarded in contemporary productions, but the magic of this piece was totally awe-inspiring.
Shackleton was emotional, evocative and affirming. The production could hardly be faulted, save for a few slow light cues. To say I loved it would be an understatement. The show created some of the most beautiful moments I have ever seen on a theatre stage, and from a student perspective, it proved that there is something worth pursuing in a theatre career. If I could create one production as magnificent as Shackleton, I would consider it a job very well done.