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Terra Nova
by Ted Tally   directed by Colin Lawrence

Christ's College Theatre, Cambridge, January 1987

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Two Reviews of Terra Nova

Jackie Cunningham
Cambridge Evening News 29th January 1987

To recreate Antarctica in the New Court Theatre of Christ's College was an outstanding achievement in itself, but then Bawds production of TERRA NOVA can only be described in superlatives.  This moving portrayal of Scott's final and tragic journey to the South Pole provided some insight into the making of national heroes.

Facing the perils of the coldest place on earth, at the bottom of the world where crevasses and blizzards can devour a man in seconds, Captain Scott and his team found yet another surprise - the hardened professional Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen.

In comparison, Scott (outstandingly characterised by Jeremy Whitton-Spriggs) was a mere sporting amateur. "Success is a bitch," commented Amundsen (powerfully played by Martin Woodruff) and he proved it by using a team of 52 sledge dogs, butchering them en route to provide food for his team.  Scott's more romantic approach was to "play the game" as a British gentleman.  To him, duty, honour and sacrifice were the major ingredients.

Without dogs and with insufficient rations, he set out with Lt Bowers, Edward Wilson, Captain Oates and Petty Officer Edgar Evans (well cast and convincingly played by Mervyn Capel, Paul Shepherd, Michael Farthing and Chris Hutt).  Scott's wife, Kathleen (Robin Morgan), provided a woman's point of view.  In a flash-back, Kathleen remarked: "I was promised a celebrity and I got a haunted man." She was unable to see why anyone would wish to go to "such a boring place" as Antarctica.  I confess that I have never fully understood, either, but by the end of this tremendous play (which marks the 75th anniversary of Scott's journey) I had more than a glimmer of conception.

Sally Ronaldson
Varsity 23rd January 1987

Terra Nova, a thespian rendition of Scott's polar expedition ingeniously directed by Colin Lawrence, marries a good hearty tale of courage and patriotism with the epic lashings of ruthless irony and human tragedy it deserves.  The stark representation of haunting realism in both set and script not only worked, it worked uncannily.

Jeremy Whitton-Spriggs' performance as Scott was sensitive without once jeopardising his charismatic power as a leader of men.  Martin Woodruff, as Scott's Norwegian rival, Roald Amundsen skilfully executed a double-role of rival explorer and voice of Scott's own conscience.

Perhaps the play's most memorable quality was the teamwork of Scott's four companions (Ted Tally's answer to Shakespeare's rude mechanicals): Loveable, courageous Welshman, Evans (Chris Hutt), committed doctor Bill (Paul Shepherd), cheery oaf Bowers (Mervyn Capel) and frenzied adventurer Oates (Michael Farthing).  Besides Whitton-Spriggs however, it was the performance of Paul Shepherd as Wilson which most lucidly led the audience through the brutal mental conflicts of those extraordinary men.  Funny in parts, awesome, grotesque, sad, desperate in others.