Following on from the success of their first production of Fiddler on the Roof, the Everyman Company have returned with the second installment of their rep company work.
This time the company are taking on The Conquest of the South Pole, a play written by Manfred Karge in 1984 Berlin, when the city was on the edge of revolution. A story of hope and imagination, Conquest shows 4 friends – Slupianek, Braukmann, Buscher and Seiffert – emulate Roald Amundsen’s conquest of the South Pole in their attic, in an attempt to escape the harsh reality of every day life and unemployment.
We sent our two Alexs along to the show last night, have a look at what they thought below:
Just when you think to yourself “I’ve seen everything that they can do with the space in the Everyman. I’ve seen them make a river in Bright Pheonix. I’ve seen all sorts drop from the rig. I’ve seen Kneehigh completely take control of the space, I’ve seen the lot”. Last night really blew me away on how creative you can really be in that incredible space. For me, the most beautiful interchangeable space in the city. The things that the directors can do in that space are truly incredible and the way they shape these shows must be appreciated. The Conquest of the South Pole was an in the round, utterly imaginative, visually beautiful show. The beauty of everything was that they took you eighty percent of the way. They gave you the visuals, but you the audience had to really trigger your imagination to take yourself to the South Pole. You had to buy into the fact that the three fishing rods standing tall represented a tent and the safety from the cold. You had to buy into the fact that the white washing on the line was the ice cold, crisp, clean snow. The way this group of creatives used set and the magic of space gave you the ingredients to transport yourself to the South Pole too.
All this being great, I feel that this unfortunately may also be where the play faults. For me personally, I never fully fell in love with this group of people. I don’t think I was given the chance to. This is a play about people. Real people. And I wanted to see more of that, rather than how interesting it is that characters can abseil into the space. This Rep Company has picked certain plays to highlight and tackle social issues. ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ made us think of the current refugee crisis. The YEP production ‘The Establishment’ made us think about the world we live in. The Conquest of the South Pole, a beautifully written, poetic and magical script about austerity and friendship. A story that tells you that when your luck is down, not to worry, because you’ve got each other should make you leave angry, sad, thinking about people. Let’s see what it does to you.
With very little background on the play aside from the Everyman Company trailer, upon entering the theatre last night, I was entirely unsure of what to expect from The Conquest of the South Pole. In hindsight, I had probably expected something more led by dialogue and character development, however it was the physical element of Conquest which I particularly loved. The utilisation of space, levels, actor physicality and props left me in awe on numerous occasions and really aided my ability to imagine on the same level as the characters themselves.
The performances of the actors were wonderful, with a powerful standout speech from Liam Tobbin who played Buscher, and a chilling brief appearance by Patrick Brennan and Kelly Sutton. The direct address worked superbly in the round and the play seemed perfectly suited to the intimate setting of the Everyman Theatre, encouraging young and old audience members to engage with the adventure. Despite this, I found it quite difficult to grasp and follow the backstory, and didn’t feel like the play had a largely political edge, however perhaps that is the beauty of the piece? Like the characters, in the excitement of the mission I was taken away from the hard-hitting truth of the real world, and left the theatre reflecting upon and unravelling the backstory rather than being immediately emotionally involved in it.
To summarise, if you are a lover of physical theatre, have a passion for innovative stage usage, or just a self-confessed dreamer, then this play is for you.
Have you been to see any of the Everyman Company plays yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
The Conquest of the South Pole is on at the Everyman Theatre for another week and a half and LJMU students can get £5 tickets. Just call the Box Office on 0151 709 4776 or visit the box office in person.