Shackleton's Carpenter, The Jermyn Street Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until August 17, 2019


This is the story of a man in a desperate situation who speaks truth to power and who then wonders if he has been punished by a resolutely optimistic leader who brooks neither doubt nor opposition. It sounds like a question that might be facing many in our current political situation. Shackleton's Carpenter is also a tale which evokes Coleridge's ancient mariner who held his audience entranced by the horrific recounting of a disastrous voyage at sea. But political and literary allusions aside, this is ultimately an evening in which Malcolm Rennie brings to life Harry McNish, the carpenter on Sir Ernest Shackleton's fateful antarctic voyage of 1914. McNish's story has many resonances, but writer, Gail Louw, never allows them to overwhelm the reality of an ordinary sailor caught in extraordinary circumstances. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, by the disappointment that he was singled out not to receive the Polar Medal and by memories of the slaughter of his pet cat, McNish recalls his voyage. And, Malcolm Rennie brilliantly evokes those memories of cruelty, camaraderie and class discrimination. For eighty minutes, he holds the audience spellbound with a bravura performance. With a minimalist set and the simplest of lighting effects, Rennie creates all the complexity of a man who has supposedly survived, but who is still lost in a harsh world of abandonment and incomprehension. His antarctic test of endurance is ironically more than matched by the test of endurance faced by a man of his background as he tries to fathom and survive in the "normal" world.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆☆ 

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WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until August 17, 2019
Mon - Sat: 7:30 pm, Sat: 3:30 pm
The Jermyn Street Theatre
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus

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