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Review of Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont

Shipwrecked play posterLife was so much easier in the days before Facebook and Twitter (other social networking sites are available). A person could claim to be something and, provided they sounded plausible enough, the world would take them at face value. This is the basic premise of “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment” which is the Christmas production at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley.

The story follows the “life” of Louis De Rougemont (Tony Taylor) who describes his days from his childhood with a slightly over-protective mother, through his teenage years on a pearl fishing expedition in the Coral Seas, being shipwrecked, marooned……. well there is so much to tell and I don’t want to spoil things as Louis recounts it so much better than I ever could. Eventually, Louis ended up back in the UK, where stories of his exploits were serialised in The Wide World Magazine (digital archives available on the web) and for a while became the biggest celebrity in London town, even getting to meet Queen Victoria. Of course, some things are constant in life and even back in the late 1800s once a celebrity has achieved a certain level of fame, then they were ripe for being taken down, in the ‘public interest’ of course. This was the fate that befell Louis as his stories were questioned, minutely examined, and held up to ridicule with the man finally reduced to a lesser version of himself, or was he? Based on the play, he definitely had at least a last hurrah within him and I, like most of the audience, celebrated that as the show came to an end in spectacular style.

Put simply, the entire show was marvellous. At 90 minutes with no interval, I was astounded at the performance of Tony Taylor. Talking virtually non-stop, he recounts Louis’s story in a wonderfully animated manner reminiscent of the storytellers on Jackanory (for those of us old enough to remember it). However, this isn’t a one-man show by any means and Tony was superbly supported by Rochelle Rose and Robert Durbin who, in addition to arranging scenery and performing sound effects, portrayed everyone that Louis had ever met in his life. Male, female, old, young, animal, vegetable or mineral, Rose and Robert brought them to life wonderfully. My particular favourites were Robert’s highly convincing and at times hilarious performance as Louis’ faithful dog Bruno, and Rose as the hard living, hard drinking, greedy to the point of avarice, captain of the pearl fishing boat. Donald Margulies’ script is long and highly convoluted – to reflect the real life of Louis – but kept the audience enthralled as Kate Bannister’s expert direction moved the story around the stage. The set was simple but so versatile – a stepladder, a box and some mops instantly transformed into the prow of a ship, and the wonderful sound effects table provided every type of background noise imaginable (I so wanted to have a play afterwards). All put together with the Martin Robinson’s costumes to create a really wonderful feel of a Victorian theatrical evening about the whole show, all it needed was a glass of mulled wine and snow falling outside to make it perfect.

Its not often a show makes me really want to research the main protagonist (well spend 5 minutes on Wikipedia at least) but this I did, and now I’ve added Louis De Rougemont to my list of dinner party guests thanks to this truly wonderful piece of theatre.

5 Star Rating

 

Review by Terry Eastham

Shipwrecked!  The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself) by Donald Margulies, directed by Kate Bannister
Tuesday 9 December to Sunday 4 January
Louis de Rougemont took Victorian England by storm with his tales of adventure on the high seas.
Now Louis invites you to witness his story of bravery, survival and celebrity that left his readers spellbound. Embarking on an epic journey, Louis encounters extraordinary creatures and strange islands, overcomes storms, shipwreck and attacks by a native tribe and a man-eating octopus, only to return to London thirty years later to publish his exploits.

Shipwrecked is a story that captivated and divided nineteenth century society. Is Louis de Rougemont an adventurer capable of amazing deeds, or is he merely a teller of tall tales? ‘Truth is stranger than Fiction but De Rougemont is stranger than both.’ The Wide World Magazine, June 1899.

The Jack Studio presents the UK Premiere of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment written by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Donald Margulies. Produced by the same team behind The Mystery of Irma Vep, Ghost Train, Around the World in 80 Days and Sleepy Hollow.

Tuesday 9th December to Sunday 4th January at 7.45pm
(please note no performances: 14-15 Dec, 21 Dec, 23-27 Dec, 31 Dec-1 Jan)
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

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