JOYCE MCMILLAN on MOBY DICK, OR THE WHALE for The Scotsman, 27.6.15.
4 stars ****
THIS YEAR’S Classic Cuts season at Oran Mor seems a quiet affair; perhaps the absence of familiar Shakespearean titles is keeping the crowds at bay, as the Play, Pie and Pint company works through a repertoire of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sophocles, Melville and Racine.
There’s some fascinating work on display, though, as writers and actors sail into previously unexplored territory. Last week, the veteran Scottish actor Benny Young appeared with Game Of Thrones star Daniel Portman in his own adaptation of Sophocles’ story of Philoctetes, the warrior who chooses a lonely and stinking exile rather than compromise with political power games. And this week, the writer J.C. Marshall offers an extraordinarily powerful account, in a series of non-chronological scenes, of the obsession at the heart of Herman Melville’s great novel Moby Dick, as a magnificent Meg Fraser – playing mad Captain Ahab – limps and prowls around a tank containing a single golden fish, revealing Ahab’s crazed conviction that the great whale he hunts is a thing of malice, that must be destroyed.
Directed by Gareth Nicholls, this Moby Dick is a superb ensemble piece, with Robert Jack and Harry Ward offering fine support in the roles of Ishmael the narrator, and his friend Queequeg. And the show benefits from a truly brilliant use of music and sound, as the cast punctuate the story with sea shanties and jagged string melodies, and the Captain stares into the whispering deep, in search of the creature he must annihilate, at any cost.
Moby Dick at Oran Mor today, and at the Byre Theatre, St. Andrews, 7-11 July. Philoctetes at the Byre Theatre, St. Andrews, 27 June-4 July.