Shackleton addresses themes of human ambition and failure

Shackleton addresses themes of human ambition and failure

From the Antarctic to the heart of humanity

Having been regular visitors to Scottish theatres, Sligo's Blue Raincoat have a reputation for theatre that combines sharp scripting and an exquisite visual sensibility. Like previous productions, including Ionesco's absurdist classic The Chairs, Shackleton addresses profound themes both of human ambition and failure.

'I always liked the story and have been working away with Jocelyn Clark who adapted Yuri Gagarin for us,' says director Niall Henry. 'It tended to end up as a male derring-do adventure. So, we had a workshop and we told the story as an existential journey, from the feeling you get looking at the old photographs of yer man.'

Niall Henry's approach has always gone beyond literary adaptation – recognising the importance of a show's visual and choreographic presentation. Shackleton offers the opportunity for spectacular imagery, but Henry never forgets the power of raw storytelling and a precise script.

'It's fantastic in the true sense of the word: these events that reflect ourselves,' he says. Following on from their presentations of a man, Gagarin, who was both inspired and alienated by his trip to space, Shackleton engages with another journey into the unknown and majestic – the Antarctic's icy Weddell Sea – but imbues it with recognisable human ambitions and fears.

Henry's enthusiasm for Beckett and Ionesco is matched by his training in Paris in more physical forms of theatre: his direction of Ionesco's The Chairs emphasised both the emptiness of ambition and the social dimension of the absurdist's script. In Shackleton's expedition, he has found another epic adventure to explore intimate truths.

Traverse, Edinburgh 7–9 Jun.
Tron, Glasgow 14–17 Jun.


Blue Raincoat Theatre present the story of Shackleton and his voyage on the Endurance.

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