THE LAST MARCH
by Tinder Theatre.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 4 January 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 January.
Affectionate comic-strip version of the famous trek to the Pole – and not quite back.
It was a race to the bottom – of the world. Captain Robert Falcon Scott was determined to win for Britain. He didn’t. Roald Amundsen from Norway, – the land of Ibsen, Grieg and the cheese-slicer – won. And came back. Which Scott didn’t.
Yet Scott triumphed as an early example of the ‘Dunkirk spirit’, and his 1912 expedition has already been used to attack notions of national pride and empire in Howard Brenton’s 1971 Scott of the Antarctic.
Which needs an ice-rink. Instead, Portsmouth’s Tinder Theatre have devised an affectionate mockery of Edwardian ideals (or pretensions) in this theatrical mini-epic.
For all his resolute purpose, Scott’s ready to adapt his mission to raise money. And his ideal marriage becomes bumpy when his wife Kathleen’s supportive comments give him successful ideas for a voyage she’d clearly rather he didn’t make. Pernilla Holland’s later emergence as Amundsen, especially in Scott’s dying vision, suggests how close Scott’s love of his wife and of his venture might have been.
There are fine comic moments. Scott never seems to complete a salute, while Sam Gibbs, adopting a voice and a prop for every other important person aboard, has a bravura sequence of ever-speeding descents, ascents and changes of hat as Scott throws orders around. Later, it’s Samuel Dent’s Scott who mimes the ship’s staircase, ladder etc, an impression undercut as the cargo concealing the fake descents is removed.
Action can reach the borderline hilarious in inventiveness and committed execution. If the mime isn’t all top-of-the-class Lecoqery, Gibbs’ routine of pouring tea in sub-zero temperature remains a comic display of futility.
But an hour is a long time in devised comedy and some ideas – like a diversion about Swedish innovations – could have been helpfully excised.
So might an extract in Norwegian from A Doll’s House, but it’s such a surprise it earns its keep, paying tribute to the assiduity of the company as the expedition does to that of the explorers, lead by Dent’s square-jawed, plucky Captain. For all the mockery, the show’s amiable cast create a liking for these venturesome men and their heroic failure.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott: Samuel Dent.
Lt Bowers/Captain Oates/Petty Officer Taff Evans/Dr Bill Wilson: Sam Gibbs.
Kathleen Scott/Roald Amundsen: Pernilla Holland.
Director: Ian Nicholson.
Designer: Victoria Smart.
Lighting: Dom Hart.