Sligo company Blue Raincoat’s tribute to Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition from 1914-1917 on the Endeavour is wordless, save for a glum, resigned version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. It is safe to say they are making a big departure from previous absurdist work such as their peerless adaptation of Ionesco’s The Chairs.
It is a slow burn (in fact, the intro is almost painfully slow) but once it gets into its stride, the production has many moments to savour. In terms of sheer visual invention, it’s a thing of loveliness. Model boats light up and appear to fly; there is puppetry and shadowplay, icebergs represented by scrunched up sheets on the ground unfold into a raging sea, and the slow laboured motion of the four perfomers is intense and vivid.
John Carty, Sandra O’ Malley, Barry Cullen and Brian F Devaney play various facets of Shackleton, and his men, emulating their weary trudge up mountainous terrain and battling through stormy waters, to the destination of Stromness in 1917.
Yet, by focusing entirely on the visual elements, augmented by beautiful photographic projections by Joe Hunt and a gorgeous moody soundtrack reminiscent at times of The Dirty Three, there is a tendency to not be able to invest emotionally in the characters and their plight. Ultimately though, it’s incredibly powerful, and a striking and highly accomplished piece of work.
At Tron Theatre until Saturday, 17th June