Jules Verne's Extraordinary Voyages: The Lighthouse at the End of the World
Not Cricket's Verne adaptation is flat and unremarkable
One of three Jules Verne adaptions being staged by Not Cricket at this year's Fringe, The Lighthouse at the End of the World begins with promise. C nova's compact studio, its four walls swaddled in large fabric maps charting a route through the South American seas, fosters a sense of adventure, the anticipation of being whisked away from reality for an hour of escapist exploits across faraway lands. As the action begins to unfold, however, this expectant atmosphere quickly dissolves. The Lighthouse at the End of the World has a by-the-numbers plot structure, whose supporting elements offer little to recommend it.
Set in the mid-19th century, the action takes place on the Isla de los Estados, off the east coast of Argentina, where lighthouse keeper Vasquez has been forced into hiding by invading pirates. Joined by Jane Davies, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, the pair attempt to evade capture while conducting various schemes to detain the pirates on the island until they can be apprehended by the crew of the due-to-return dispatch ship.
Adapted from one of Verne's lesser-known novels, the story is predictable. This would be easy to forgive were it staged with any flair or originality, but the production is lifeless. Verne's already simplistic plot is reduced to its component parts and his characters to pieces in a rather dull game of Snakes and Ladders. The heroes trade fortunes with the villains within a basic narrative framework, but the young performers lack the skills to invest the thinly sketched characters with any depth or interest.
The pirates, despite the cold-blooded murder they commit off-stage to kickstart the narrative, do little to inspire any real antipathy and are no less sympathetic than the protagonists, whose almost perfunctory approach to their pirate-trapping plots gives the audience little reason to care. Neither the heroes nor the villains give the sense that they extend beyond their function as pawns in a narrative, leaving a production that feels more like a series of events than it does a play.
The naked and unchanging set on which these occurrences take place, which creates frequent ambiguity about the action's setting, serves only to bring these flaws into sharper relief. What might, in more seasoned hands, have been a thrilling tale of adventure, piracy, and hiding from bad guys, unfortunately disappoints as a dull, uninspired skeleton of a show.
C nova, until 29 Aug, 4.45pm, £8.50–£10.50 (£4.50–£8.50).