The Last South: Pursuit of the Pole

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Rating (out of 5)
5
Show info
Company
Festival Highlights
Production
Rob Mulholland (director), G.M. Calhoun (writer)
Performers
Jamie Lee, Adrian Lukis
Running time
70mins

Sometimes theatre just gets everything right – a superb
cast, clear design, and storytelling so utterly absorbing that it just hoists
you right out of your usual reality and fills your imagination with something
extraordinary.

You could, of course, argue that’s it like shooting fish in
a barrel, making theatre out of something as inherently dramatic as the race to
the South Pole. But that would be missing the point, for there are plenty of
shows based on real-life events that fail to engage, fail to move, even though they ought to compel and fascinate. No, what “The Last
South” achieves is a truly mesmeric experience, based on little more than two
men, some journals and a couple of folding chairs.

The Englishman Robert Falcon Scott and the Norwegian Roald
Amundsen could hardly be more different. Scott (Adrian Lukis) comes across as
an excessively noble, ludicrously optimistic gentleman, endlessly banging on
about the sheer excellence of his team’s character, and in fact refusing to see
their endeavour as a ‘race’ at all. Amundsen (Jamie Lee), on the other hand, is
quite up-front about wanting to beat Scott to the Pole, and comes across as an
attractively laid-back figure, who is nevertheless extremely focused on
winning. It’s an intriguing battle, then, as the men take turns to reveal the
hopes, privations and mental torment that made up the lot of these early
twentieth-century explorers.

With a taut, incisive script by G.M. Calhoun, based entirely
on authentic journals kept at the time, “The Last South” uses stark design and
the simplest of techniques to create a shining, deeply engrossing theatrical
experience.