Savoy Theatre, London WC2
Opened 9 October, 2001

*** Bad pun required: six men in an ice cave leave us cold

David Young's play gives us the human drama of an extreme situation, but never really sorts out its wider themes.

Physical restraint need not makes things undramatic: look at the hostage play Someone Who'll Watch Over Me or much of Beckett's work. Nor does it stifle matters in Richard Rose's production: there is room for the men to crouch beneath the looming ceiling of Rae Smith's set, and action occasionally break out into the icy waste above. Young has also written "memory" scenes set some thirty years on, which are more at odds with the overall feel of the piece. The performances, from the likes of Ronan Vibert, Darrell D'Silva and Eddie Marsan (strange as he sounds in a West Country accent), are likewise solid.

The problem is that the play cannot decide what it is about. Superficially, it is a fictionalised account of actual events, when a British exploration party in 1912 dug in for seven months to survive the Antarctic winter. And yes, we see the individual and class tensions between officers and men and the gradual onset of "cabin fever". The deeper theme may be our need for bizarre fictions and rituals to give our lives some shape, the illusions we make of both present and past, but it never comes sufficiently into focus, leaving the evening purposeless.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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