4 April 2013

Moby Dick at the Arcola Theatre

The Arcola is just possibly my favourite theatre and Moby Dick is part of why that is.

Moby Dick comes from the lovely simple8 theatre company who  also brought The Cabinet of Dr Caligari to the Arcola. I loved that so I immediately booked to see Moby Dick.

This was my first time in the main studio at Arcola since the latest stage of its major redevelopment and I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed, mostly because little had changed. The door is now half-way up the side rather than at the top and that's about all that has changed.

The stage is still engaged in brick with wooden structures inside to hold the seats and provide that cute industrial look. The unusual shape of the stage, including a raised platform, gives companies who have the mind to interesting options and simple8 find some.

I always think that a good play needs few props and this was a case in point. A few drapes made a ship, a few stools made a bar, blue paint made a sea and a few pieces of wood made a whale. Good design gives the audience's imagination space to roam.

As with Dr Caligari, the play made effective use of music and in this case that meant sea-shanties. They worked superbly.

The small cast could act as well as sing and they conjured a range of colourful and convincing characters such as the long-term crew members, the landlord of a lowly bar, a south-sea harpooner, the very English captain of another ship and, of course, Captain Ahab himself.

Ahab lead the way magnificently. The meek and lowly clerk from a couple of weeks ago commanded his ship on the quest to find the white whale with calm and forceful determination. He looked every inch a leader and a man on a mad mission. It was compelling to watch.

Moby Dick was a stunning performance and every aspect of it was good, very good or excellent. A remarkable demonstration of what theatre can be and a fine advertisement for both simple8 and the Arcola.

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