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  • Guy van Egmond

Review: Antarctic Endeavours

Written by: Guy van Egmond (he/him), Phoebe Robertson (she/her)

How do you summarize a play that has no summary? A play whose own blurb matches only its first 10 minutes? 

The show starts simply: two newlyweds and a realtor-cum-narrator, looking for a new house to call their own. This is about the only thing simple about the show, as it quickly breaks form and takes us on a journey from the 1940’s to the present day—with some Shakespeare and self-awareness thrown in—all wrapping up in the snowy world of Antarctica. Phoebe thinks the yeti hunt was her favorite part of this play. This is disputed by Guy, because Yeti live in the Himalayas, not Antarctica.

If there’s one thing this play was: it was surreal. Detrimentally so. The show’s timeline takes Tom and Suzanne (Ethan Cranefield, Hellena Faasili), who married in 1949, but are looking for a house 81 years in the future, having not aged a day and without any sort of generational accents or speech. It’s also never clear how or why we’re in Antarctica, why it’s only freezing cold when there’s no other dramatic tension, or why Romeo is there… Add in a fourth wall that comes and goes on a whim, and you’ve got a performance so contextually displaced that it’s hard to feel any sort of sympathy for the characters at all. Are they even characters? Are they just actors trapped in a black box? Blurring this line was excellent in concept, but needed some refinement to really pull the audience into the narrative and improve clarity in its delivery. 

The show’s narrator (Joshua Hughes) initially had us hooked, providing the most deliciously snide and charming performance in the first act. But he lost his grip on the audience, as his character lost his grip on the show. His existential and domineering narrator-in-the-flesh was the show’s biggest narrative technique, both in explaining the plot and building an audience relationship through the fourth wall. There were moments of gold, definitely: when he and Romeo (Lincoln Swinerd) challenge our voyeurism of on-stage anguish. “Be thou entertained?” they demand, with only slightly less menace than Russel Crowe. But the acting grew stale as the second act concluded; there’s only so long you can yell at an audience before your message is lost to the volume. 

But, don’t get us wrong, there were a lot of good moments in this show. The script was clever at times, invoking laughs from us and the audience. The lighting and sound design (Scott Maxim, Alex Quinn) was where the show truly excelled, with excellent soundscapes to help set the stage in a black box theater, which was expertly coordinated with the choreography of the actors. A particular moment that stood out was the video store scene, where a foggy gray backdrop disoriented the audience and the actors alike. Throughout, the excellent timing of lighting and sound cues went off together without a hitch. 

Even though we both were disappointed that the narrator wasn’t a vampire in the end, we can't help but look at the potential a show like Antarctic Endeavors holds. With a production that came together from the departure of the original script writer and director, they did an excellent job of pulling the show together. I would be interested to see how this show could be developed given a second season and more time behind the scenes. But for now, Phoebe will be traveling to the Himalayas and looking for her own yeti. Guy might come with.


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