This is Moby Dick the novel by Herman Melville, adapted for the stage by Orson Welles, and directed by Adam Cook for Sport For Jove Theatre company. Ishmael (Tom Royce-Hampton) goes to sea whenever he’s feeling “grim about the mouth”. He joins the Pequod, helmed by Captain Ahab, and unwittingly signs up to scrub the decks of a ship involved in one of the greatest revenge plots of all time: the hunt for the great white whale. The whale which took Captain Ahab’s leg.
Important disclosure – I’m a whale watcher. If you too love whales, or indeed the novel Moby Dick, then this show is a must see. The challenge while writing this review was not to descend into a lengthy description of the sperm whale itself.
Suffice it to say they are no docile Humpback. They are fast moving killers. They dive hard and fast up to two kilometres into the dark to get below the giant squid that lurk in the deep in order to look up and view them against the sun. They are pack hunters. And that’s all I’ll say about the whales.
In this production, setting was evoked effectively through the soundscape (Sound designer: Ryan Patrick Devlin) and the ringing of the ship’s bells. In true SFJ fashion, carefully thought out physical work (Movement director: Nigel Poulton) with some of the larger props – or moveable elements of the set – effectively transported the audience onto the high seas for some tense whale themed hide and seek (Set design: Mark Thompson). Inspired lighting choices heightened our experience of Ahab’s all consuming moments of madness (Lighting design: Gavin Swift).
This production features a deliciously harrowing performance from Danny Adcock as Ahab. You can see the deep pain and madness in his eyes; it pours from every fibre of his being – a true embodiment of the role. I had forgotten that Ahab is so self aware about his descent into madness, which somehow makes it more moving to behold.
Starbuck (Francesca Savige) sinks toward her own sea floor of despair as she watches the salvation she enkindles in Ahab’s eyes doused at the reappearance of the white whale. Alas, thar she blows! Starbuck pleads to no avail for the Pequod to return to its true capitalist mission: to pursue all whales, all profits, rather than this squelchy fever dream. Profit before passion says Starbuck; this is the true American way.
There’s a very effective scene between Ahab and Pip (Rachel Alexander) – in which they contemplate the nature of ‘whiteness’ – which had shivers running up and down my spine. I argue this scene is enough to make the production worth catching alone.
Moby Dick is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements the prose world has to offer, and Orson Welles one of the greatest writers for performance. Don’t miss your chance to hop aboard the Pequod and join in the fight against the tyranny of untempered passion.
Reginald Theatre – Seymour Centre, Corner City Road and Cleveland Street, Chippendale (Sydney)
Performance: Saturday 11 August 2018
Season: 9 – 25 August 2018
For more information, visit: www.sportforjove.com.au for details.
Image: Danny Adcock (Ahab) in Moby Dick – photo by Marnya Rothe
Review: Oliver Wakelin