From the producer of such memorable productions as Freud’s Last Session, Howie the Rookie, Blonde Poison, The Time Machine and Lip Service, comes a different experience – a dramatised reading of Shackleton’s Carpenter, by the indomitable Peter FitzSimons. It is an epic true story of exploration, survival, courage, conflict and the workings of the British class system, through the eyes of Shackleton’s carpenter.
McNish is just a carpenter on a historic expedition, led by a legendary figure – almost larger than life – Sir Ernest Shackleton. In 1914, as war was about to envelop Europe, Shackleton, together with 27 hand-picked men sailed in the Endurance to Antarctica with the aim of walking to the South Pole. Within 80 miles of reaching land, the Endurance became trapped in the ice. Eighteen months later all the members of the expedition were saved.
Twenty four members of the expedition were awarded the Polar Medal. Amongst the four who were not, was McNish, the man who had made the lifeboats seaworthy for the hazardous journey which led to safety.
Minor characters do not often get their side of the story interpreted by others. Rosencrantz and Gildenstern (Tom Stoppard), Kate Kelly (The Whitlams) and The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz in Wicked are a few examples.
Gail Louw’s play sees McNish destitute, living rough on a wharf in Wellington, New Zealand, fighting his demons and trying to come to grips with the injustice he feels he has suffered. This minor character is given a voice!
Reviews of the West End production were stellar:
“Shackleton’s Carpenter is …a tale which evokes Coleridge’s ancient mariner…by the horrific recounting of a disastrous voyage…” – 5 stars, London Living Large
“It is riveting. It is powerful.” – 5 stars, LondonTheatre1.com
“…an intense unsparing evocation of memory and mockery, survival in grim Antarctic beauty, pride, trauma and not least, fury…you won’t forget it. “ – 4 stars, My Theatre Mates
“Compelling cold comfort” – 4 stars, The Times
“The Boss’s account is well known, but McNish’s compelling contribution to history deserves an airing, which this gripping piece unflinchingly provides.” – Theatreworld
“It boils down to story about class. Posh folk lead, the plebs follow, and if things go well, it is due to the posh.” – Reviewsgate
“…he appears like a Beckett character…that takes us from the terror and poetry of the Antarctic ice to the characters former wives, mistress, children…” – The Guardian
Peter is a highly respected author, journalist, radio and TV presenter. He is a former Wallaby and is Chair of the Australian Republican Movement. His most recent book is James Cook: The Story Behind the Man who Mapped the World. (Hachette Australia). The role of McNish sees Peter taking on a totally different challenge: one undertaken with a clear responsibility to present Harry’s side of the story.
Peter has generously donated all his fees for performing to The Footpath Library. The Footpath Library aims to enrich the quality of life for people experiencing homelessness, encourage literacy and promote a society that is well informed about homelessness. For more details go to www.footpathlibrary.org
Venue: Australian National Maritime Museum, 2 Murray Street, Darling Harbour
Dates: Tues 25, Wed 26, Fri 28 Feb at 7pm; Sat 29 Feb at 7:30pm; Sat 29 Feb, Sun 1 Mar at 5:30pm, 2020
Part of the proceeds from the performances go to support the Maritime Museum
For more information and tickets, visit www.sea.museum/shackletons