It was a pleasure to get the chance to revisit Conor Lovett’s one-man show, Moby Dick, for Gare St. Lazare Players, at Garter Lane. I had seen the opening night of this work in Youghal early in April and had commented that – while the performance was mighty, the length of the presentation was too long. Lovett’s trademark diffident, almost conversational, style of delivery which well suited his acclaimed Beckett work, did not fit well with an array of larger than life characters from a big meaningful novel from Herman Melville.
Theatre does reshape itself and adjust to audience feedback and this production is now a tighter 100 minutes, with more detail on the conflict between Ahab and the white whale. It is still a leviathan of a task and Lovett had made the dialogue more active and dramatic.
“They call me Ishmael” is the iconic opening line that sets up the journey and the sharper conflict and the actual night mirrored the narrated – a damp drizzly November in my soul. Mystery and warnings are created before the Pequod sails as Ahab stands on the quarterdeck, his other leg made from the bone of a sperm whale’s jaw.
There is a grim foreboding, a crucifixion in his face as he offers the crew a sixteen dollar ounce of gold in reward for first sighting of the white whale of death and devils. God hunt us all if we do not hunt Moby Dick takes us into the interval.
When we return to the bare stage, just a small table, we know we are on the floor of the ocean as Queequeg, the harpooner, has his fateful coffin made and you just know there will be no happy homeward bound. A typhoon lashes the ship and the mood is full of superstition as Ahab rages at the elements.
We were into the last quarter of the drama when Ahab spots the white whale and in six minutes, all of three days battle has been powerfully acted and told. Lovett is in mighty form as the ship is smashed from hate’s heart and swallowed up in a great vortex – the drama done and only the narrator Ishmael left to tell the tale. And what a tale.