“Moby Dick” at the Arcola Theatre

The Simple8 theatre company has already won acclaim for its current brief season at the Arcola Theatre. Moby Dick is its second production, following The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, another ambitious adaptation made remarkable by a back-to-basics method. With minimal props and a set erected during the action, Simple8’s emphasis is on story telling, delivering an appealingly pared-down piece of theatre.

Taking on the subject of mad Captain Ahab and whale hunting in such a rudimentary fashion works well and much of the success comes from the accompanying music, sea shanties and touching folk songs. Performances are also excellent, from Joseph Kloska as the cruelly obsessed, mutilated mariner Ahab, forever “bound” to chase the eponymous Great White, and Oliver Birch for a series of smaller roles. Taking the lead is Sargon Yelda as an impoverished schoolmaster turned sailor. If at times a touch too ebullient, he navigates proceedings admirably as our narrator.

Sebastian Armesto’s adaptation of Melville’s mammoth classic is strikingly economical and effective – qualities also commendable in his direction. Armesto superbly wrings out the action in the text using a great deal of mime and Melville’s religious concerns are downplayed. Instead, Armesto is fascinated by the allegorical use of the sea as a mirror for man’s own nature. It’s a rich seam to explore and one that gives satisfying depths to a show that provides much to reflect upon.

Until 4 May 2013

www.arcolatheatre.com

Photo by Idil Sukan

Written 3 April 2013 for The London Magazine

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