Finger in the Pie’s stage adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is nothing less than a great theatrical innovation, which captures the spirit and atmosphere of the novel on a shoestring budget. On entering the theatre the stage set-up is very basic, there are just a few planks of wood, a couple of ropes, two ladders, and a couple of white sheets hanging from the ceiling. But this is the master-stroke of the whole production; Finger in the Pie’s ‘poor theatre’ aesthetic injects this classic tale with a huge amount of on-stage humour and energy.
After a somewhat misguided opening, where the ensemble cast wanders onto the stage, attempting to inject some humour into the opening scenes, the production only goes from strength to strength. Anyone who’s read Melville’s original novel will be aware of the tedious descriptions of the day-to-day business of whaling. But what was a weakness of Melville’s novel, served only as a strength for this production. In little over an hour, the cast were able to benefit from cutting down the novel, to focusing on the most exciting, and thought provoking aspects of Moby Dick.
The ensemble cast of six, spend an inventive hour narrating, singing, and paddling around the stage, in what can only be described as a poignant performance. In a move of pure genius, all the live music and sound, for the production is performed by the cast, this just adds to the spectacle of the show. Simple touches are often the most enchanting, and the cast’s use of shadow effects to bring to life the whale, or the moment that Ismael is swept away at sea, transforms the production from the ordinary into the extraordinary.
The special effects, apart from the on-stage lighting, and once again embracing the principles of ‘poor theatre’, are all carried out by the cast. At one point in the production a bottle of what I can only assume contained lucozade, or a different orange liquid was used to create an ominous setting. At other times cast members can be seen creating the windy sea effects on Captain Ahab. But the techniques of ‘poor theatre’ are what make this play a stroke of pure genius; as an audience member you’re very much aware of the skill and dedication that the actors are giving. If anything the rough and ready special effects in Moby Dick makes this adaptation stand out from the crowd.
Finger in the Pie’s shoe-string adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is a transporting experience. My only problem was there was not enough rum on stage, but you can’t have everything.
Moby Dick showing at the Greenwich Theatre from Tuesday 17 September until Saturday 21 September 2013.
Published in What’s on London – Full Review: http://www.whats-on-london.co.uk/review/moby-dick-youre-guaranteed-to-have-a-whale-of-a-time/