A Cinema in South Georgia

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 11 Aug 2015

The title of this show is a little misleading. The real-life shipping of a cinema projector from the Alhambra theatre in Leith, Edinburgh, to a whaling outpost in the island of South Georgia kicks things off, but this warm-hearted piece is really about the community forged between whalers in the icy Antarctic wastes in 1959.

Based on verbatim accounts from the time, Jeffrey Mayhew (who also directs) and Susan Wilson's play is more of a dramatised history lesson, detailing the hardships and escapades of four particular whalers: Jim, Fraser, Robbie and Archie. If this sounds dry, it's not: Mayhew's production bursts with life, as the cast slip in and out of song and intersperse their scrapping with wry observations.

The show's structure is fairly ramshackle, dropping in anecdotes and introductions to characters haphazardly. But a strong vein of salty humour keeps things buoyant, and the actors—particularly Euan McIver, as as a twinkly-eyed Jim—bond like brothers as they bicker, play cards and get pissed. They make for great company and their performances add piquancy to the touching Skype call that ends the play.

Mayhew and Wilson sometimes let their research run away with itself, leading to a few overly textbook-style moments. (You'll learn more about how whalers brewed their beer than you'll ever usefully need.) But there's a truthful charm to this production that blows the dust from the pages. Its abiding respect for its subject matter translates into a joyful experience on stage.