Jade Dowie, third year English Literature student from Liverpool John Moores University, reviews The Conquest of the South Pole, at the Liverpool Everyman until April 8th 2017.
For their second offering the Everyman Repertory Company are taking on Manfred Karge’s The Conquest of the South Pole with an imaginative revival by Nick Bagnall. The Everyman has never been one to shy away from choosing plays that highlight contemporary social issues and here we are invited along to follow four friends as they come to terms with the emptiness and boredom surrounding a repetitive cycle of unemployment, tea and fishing. Despite first being performed in Berlin in 1986 it’s a play that still feels very relevant with the U.K’s current uncertainty surrounding the potential economic fallout from Brexit. Losing your livelihood is now a real fear for many of us so it is impossible not to empathise with the unfortunate position these character’s find themselves in.
Dissatisfied with their situation, leader Slupianek (played by Dean Nolan) persuades his friends to escape their grim reality with an imaginary recreation of Amundsen’s legendary expedition of the South Pole – all without leaving the attic. This allows the Everyman to do what it does best as, once again, the audience bears witness to a wonderfully creative set design being transformed with simple props; in this case the use of white washing on the line to represent icy glaciers and fishing rods tied together to form a tent that shelters them from the cold. This was especially effective at enabling the audience to fully immerse themselves in the make believe world the friends have created, as we are encouraged to join them in using our own imaginations.
Thanks to the incredible performances from the cast, you really feel for this eccentric group of dreamers. Nolan’s Slupianek is captivating and the audience is swept along as he clings desperately to a fantasy in which he is finally successful in overcoming the obstacles life throws his way. We especially see this desperation in his refusal to accept Buscher’s (Liam Tobin) suggestion that Shackleton’s failed expedition would make a more interesting game as “We do failure better”. And Emily Hughes’ comic opening sequence leading to her character’s failed suicide attempt was a wonderful example of theatre forcing the audience to question what they will cheer for in the name of entertainment.
Another highlight from this performance is its play on language, a compelling mixture of poetry, slang and conventional dialogue drawing us further into the blissful escapism, though this did sometimes make the plot hard to follow.
This is a truly original and inspiring piece of theatre that has you still thinking about it long after it has finished. An evening spent at the arctic will be a welcome distraction to LJMU students in need of a break from their revision so head down to The Everyman to pick up your £5 tickets.
Jade Dowie | Final year English Literature Student | Liverpool John Moores University