Conor Lovett, the now much acclaimed one-man interpreter of Samuel Beckett stories, with his Gare St. Lazare Players, began his nationwide tour with his partner and his director, Judy Hegarty Lovett’s adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, at The Mall Arts Centre, Youghal. No doubt the choice of place was influenced by the significant impact the making of the movie in the nineteen fifties had on Youghal – a symbol of success from a story that is weighted down by symbolism, connections, stylised language and soliloquies.
It is a big book and breaking it down into more than two hours if a difficult task and I’m not sure if this version meets the theatrical or dramatic content as well as it might. Too much content is given to exposition in the long first half where there is little tension or conflict. The Sporter’s Inn and Queequeg’s introduction are too long and perhaps Father Mapple’s sermon could have been sacrificed for the well-handled debate about God and the Universe.
The second half has all the action and it was 10.17 before the white whale rises up after a long passage about a typhoon and the eerie St. Elmo’s Fire passages. By 10-24 three days of battle between Ahab and the whale and the final Vortex are done.
I think this script would have been better if the performer concentrated on Ahab versus Moby Dick and then under two hours you would have conflict dramatic tension, death, retribution and the vastness of the ocean.
That said Conor Lovett is an accomplished performer and this is a leviathan of a task. The different literary style he has made his own with Beckett’s work, is almost too laconic for the big characters, big themes of Moby Dick. For the opening fifteen minutes this stylised approach seemed to lack impact and an odd reference to Beckett seemed out of place.
Unfortunately this actor has to be considered against two other performances that have dominated this one-man show market, Donal O’Kelly in Catalpa and Aiden Dooley in Tom Crean. At times Lovett is too audio-book and not dramatic enough to stir the blood or make the hair stand on the back of my neck.
I do recommend people to go and experience this leviathan of a literary exercise. Not once in small plastic seats did I feel a numb bum or wish to be elsewhere. From the moment he utters those famous words – They call me Ishmael – I wanted to be on that journey and I felt Ahab’s rant – for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.