As it was such a cold, dreary evening there was some great anticipation of the night ahead. What could be better on a windy, rainy night than visiting the theatre and starting off the spooky season with a chilling tale? Unfortunately, on this occasion, I felt that the hype and expectation did not live up to the delivery.
At The Mountains of Madness tells the tale of six brave explorers who embark on an expedition to the Antarctic on the hunt for geological samples. The trip ends disastrously and Dr. William Dyer leads the narration of the tale in the hope that it will deter future explorers. The book was originally a novel, and it perhaps should have stayed that way as it did not translate terribly well onto the stage.
Unfortunately, any individuals who had a seat that was anywhere near the back missed an awful lot of action. There were some scenes which were set on the floor and, sadly, that left audience members craning their necks to get a view of what was going on. This also made hearing a challenge and there were long passages of libretto which were lost. This did not help when trying to keep up with the plot.
One of the trademarks of the original novel is the graphic descriptions of blood and gore throughout the story. Whilst it is difficult to create a scene that would deliver on one’s imagination, when attempting to bring this to life, it should be either all or nothing. There was an attempt at a gory scene which fell a little bit flat and it may have been more effective if the audience were allowed to let their minds consider the possibilities.
Despite this, there were some great elements to this play as well. The lighting was well done, creating a very spooky atmosphere and successfully delivering a sense of cold to the room. In addition, there was a constant windy uncurrent of sound throughout which worked really well.
In terms of talent on stage, it was very clear that there were some extremely seasoned and professional individuals who perfected their roles. Grae Westgate was a triumph in the role of Dyer, holding a flawless Scottish accent throughout the entire production (honestly, didn’t realize he wasn’t Scottish!). He played the character flawlessly, showing real strength in the second act when his character is starting to descend into what appears to be madness.
Alec Sleigh & Alex Lushington were both well cast in the roles of the students, Danforth and Henley. Both were able to bring an innocence to the stage and a sense of awe towards their professors. It was a very believable performance.
Rob Dorey was great in the role of Lake. Similarly to Dyer, there were hints at a change of personality and a sense of mania which made the audience think about what his role was going to be in the events unfolding.
Last, but most certainly not least, both Simon Meredith and Chaz Davenport excelled in their roles of Atwood and Pabodie. Both were brilliant actors who gave the audience great, clear performances with volume.
I would also like to commend the dissection scene as this was done really well.
Good luck to Arena Theatre for their next production, Alice in Wonderland.