Conquering the south pole from an attic
A play about a group of unemployed men who try to reach one of the polar ice caps is the next offering at the Rose Theatre.
Conquest of the South Pole by German playright Manfred Karge was first produced in the UK in 1988, directed by Stephen Unwin, and launched the careers of Alan Cumming and Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremer.
It tells the story of a gang of friends who are bullied and cajoled into attempting to retrace the steps of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who led a group to the South Pole in 1911.
They steal hiking jackets and plan to set off but the journey proceeds in their imagination with white sheets as ice bergs and their travels confined to an attic.
The play has been described as “the right play at the right moment” and its stars include Chris Ashby from Skins and Mark Field from Brideshead Revisited.
Director Stephen Unwin, who will hold a discussion of the play after the performance on May 29, said: “In a time of unemployment and particularly youth unemployment which is what this is about it couldn’t be more appropriate.
“The weird thing I think it’s probably more pertinent and interesting now than when I did it in 1988 and quite funny how it can feel more powerful.
“It’s short, it’s fast, it’s funny. It is about young people and it is about a group of lads who get together and do this acting out the conquest of the South Pole.
“It is about whether kids can get together and do something. These kids have a big imagination and it is a beautiful play.”
First time around he directed future stars Alan Cumming and Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremer and this time he praised his eight actors, which includes Sam Crane, O-T Fagbenle and Emma Cunliffe, as the next generation.
“Don’t be put off by the esoteric sounding ‘German-sounding’ Manfred Karge, Unwin said. “I know some people think the work we have done at the Rose has been a little bit mainstream or middle-aged. I understand that criticism.
We have done Noel Coward, Michael Frayn and Shakespeare.
“This thing is pure energy, it is fun. My son said ‘how can an old geezer like you do something that seems to be about my life?’”
The Conquest of the South Pole, Rose Theatre, High Street, Kingston, May 29 to June 2. Ticket £10. rosetheatre kingston.org or call 08444 821556.
To see a video of the cast talking about the play visit rosetheatrekingston. org/visiting-productions/conquest-south-pole