Audience have a whale of a time

A standing ovation was the perfect curtain call for the first performance of ‘A Cinema in South Georgia’.

Thursday, 2nd April 2015, 6:00 am
The real cinema in Leith Harbour, South Georgia back in the 1950s when Berwickshire fishermen went for months on end for the whale fishing
The real cinema in Leith Harbour, South Georgia back in the 1950s when Berwickshire fishermen went for months on end for the whale fishing

The play pays homage to co-author Susan Wilson’s father, and men like him who travelled from the Berwickshire coast to the icy seasof South Georgia in the late 1950s to hunt whales. In the audience in Coldingham Theatre Hall were retired fishermen and relatives of others who had been on the whaling ships - all of whom would be quick to spot any discrepancy from the reality they knew.

However, with Susan and her co-author Jeffrey Mayhew using written and oral first-hand accounts of life on the whaling ships, typical Eyemouth humour, and clever use of cine photography to graphically show the brutal nature of the job, the audience was left in no doubt about what the men experienced, and many were on their feet at the end to applaud both the authors and the actors for their moving and professional portrayal of quite a tricky subject.

Song, dance, comedy, and pathos - all with an Eyemouth twist - kept the play moving along at a brisk pace.

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Robbie fights against Archie and Jims efforts to educate him in Aruba on the way to South Georgia

While still at the writing stage Susan knew who she wanted for each of the four main parts: leader and old hand at the whaling game Jim Gordon, Fraser Gillie who tried hard but was something of a misfit, family man Archie Donaldson who struggled with responsibility, and young Robbie McNeil on his first trip, and still wet behind the ears. And she was spot on.

The cast were superb, every one of them - Euan McIver as Jim, Jonathan Combe as Fraser, Frazer Smilez as Robbie and Mark Vevers as Archie - and Susan and Jeffrey couldn’t have placed their work in safer hands.

From the opening scene where they set up the cinema projector transported from the Alhambra theatre in Edinburgh, the four of them took their audience on a journey through their lives in South Georgia, boredom being filled with alcohol, films, alcohol, singing, alcohol and nonsense - all of it believeable.

Giving depth to the tale, the final scene was cleverly constructed - young Jim, now in his 70s trying to talk on Skype about his adventures - how they had lost Fraser, the most emotionally fragile of them, in South Georgia, Archie who had long since died and Jim still going strong in his 90s - summing up their characters and lives across the decades.

Jim and Archie play acting as a married couple in A cinema in Couth Georgia

‘A Cinema in South Georgia’ will be at the Maltings on May 9, London’s Old Red Lion Theatre, and the Edinburgh Fringe, Pleasance Theatre on August 7.

One not to be missed.

Theres always time for a song as far as Robbie, Archie and Fraser are concerned
A choir of Robbie (Frazer Smilez) Archie (Mark Vevers), Jim (Euan McIver) and Fraser (Jonathan Coombe)
A game of cards and a drink were a good evenings entertainment for Jim, Robbie and Fraser