A Cinema in South Georgia

Co-written by Susan Wilson and Jeffrey Mayhew, A Cinema in South Georgia follows the misadventures and travels of a group of Edinburgh Whalers in a desolate outpost in South Georgia. This production from a group of amateur actors is a crowd pleaser from start to end, but does have some shortcomings.

It doesn’t preach about the horrors of the whaling industry, but by providing the facts and footage on the projector, it manages to show the despicable side of the trade.

Having seen one of Mayhew’s previous productions at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, one could see his hand at work. Verging on a music hall style, this romp of a comedic adventure tale has the audience in stitches for large amounts of time. At times, it is slapstick at its best, but at times the jokes fall flat either due to the script or delivery. The script is strong by and large and we do go on a definite voyage with the four characters and feel invested in their fortunes, especially at the end.

Euan McIver plays Jim Gordan with an easy natural skill that suits this sort of comedy. He is a joy to watch and a rock upon which the show can be propelled along. We empathise most with his character’s cheeky-chappy shenanigans.

Jonathan Combe unfortunately falls short playing Fraser Gillie. There is a lot of over-acting and pre-empting of lines from his troop which ends up drawing us out of the rest of the action. That being said he obviously puts in the effort and deserves credit for his work.

Frazer Smilez as the young Robbie McNeil puts in a heroic effort. At times he too falls prey to the over acting, but largely his work is of a very good quality. If trained he could make an excellent actor. Mark Vevers is the other veteran of the troop, playing Archie McDonaldson. Especially when opposite McIver, he is another powerhouse of laughs and has the audience falling out of chairs with his use of the script.

I can see this show touring Scotland, as it has a broad appeal for fans of slapstick. However, it would do the rather beautiful story of these whalers more justice with a small amount of script development and work on the acting. It is also a shame the projection is not done in a period style that utilises effects and fonts to make it older – it instead uses a PowerPoint-cum-postcard style. It doesn’t preach about the horrors of the whaling industry, but by providing the facts and footage on the projector, it manages to show the despicable side of the trade.

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The Blurb

An exciting, new piece of ensemble theatre written by Jeffrey Mayhew (Swift, Bright is the Ring of Words,) and Susan Wilson (daughter of whaler William Watt). Based entirely on first-hand accounts they bring to life the experiences; bitter, hilarious, rueful and heart-warming, of some of the last men to follow the millennia-old tradition of hunting the whale. It is a celebration, in words and song, of four Eyemouth men, who, at differing points in their lives, in different ways and with differing attitudes and outcomes risked their lives among the Antarctic ice floes.

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