[2008024] An Air Balloon Across Antarctica

An Air Balloon Across Antarctica (FringeTIX)

Three To A Room @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

6:30pm, Sun 24 Feb 2008

Let’s be blunt – I didn’t like this.

You can stop reading now if you want. I wish I could stop writing. But I feel that I have to justify the above statement; and so, taking the easy way out of my moral compulsion, I’ll start by quoting the programme:

Powerful and poignant, An Air Balloon Across Antarctica tells the story of a female explorer traveling across Antarctica in a hot air balloon, accompanied by Ham, a lemming trapped in a hamster’s body. Armed with an identity complex, an addiction to breakfast cereal, and a willingness to accept the surreal, this unlikely duo undertakes a journey across hostile terrain, battling memories and wandering souls in the search for inner peace and the blankest space on earth.

Sounds quirky, doesn’t it? Interesting, even. The problem is that the exploration aspect of the story is merely a flimsy, rarely-used device to introduce apparitions that presumably represent the central character’s inner demons. And the principal story – a touching, but pedestrian, tale of boy-meets-girl-love-blooms-have-child-which-dies-tearing-them-apart – is… well, not compelling. At all.

Ugh. That makes me sound like a cold-hearted bastard. Which I am, but I still managed to be emotionally moved by a bit of good theatre. Which this isn’t.

There I go again, lavishing ill-will on the show with no justification… Let’s take a step back. Breathe.

There are three principle story threads – the present, with heroine Caitlin and her hamster Ham drifting across the Antarctic in the eponymous air balloon; the near past, where we see Caitlin and her boyfriend James falling out of love after the death of their child; and the far past, where we see Caitlin and James meet. Each of them are essentially independent; there’s very few connections between them, and that makes the piece feel fragmented, not cohesive. The male lead, played by Paul David-Goddard, portrayed James as a quiet character and had no stage presence – which is crap if you’re a lead. In fact, the only really compelling aspect of this production was the Ham character, played to perfection by Sophie Lampel.

But one quirky character, no matter how well acted, is not enough to save a production. I can’t say much more than that. I really, really didn’t like this.

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