Shackles, The Boss Comes to the Manchester Fringe Festival

‘SHACKLES, THE BOSS’, a play by author, Andy Dickinson brings to life Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917.

Following Amundsen’s conquest of the South Pole in 1912, this is the only challenge left. Most explorers consider it to be impossible. The action mostly takes part on Endurance in a two hander: Shackleton and The Stowaway.

“Regarding rehearsals, we are just beginning,” Andy says. “All I can say is that Shackleton (Carl Thompson) must already be wondering what he’s let himself in for. I’ve been sending him a new draft every few days. For my sins, I will be playing The Stowaway myself.”

I just wanted to feel a little of what Shackleton and The Stowaway would have felt.

The Stowaway signed up for a bit of an ‘adventure’. A mere three days into the expedition he is discovered. Shackleton informs him that he’s the first to be eaten, should the men have to turn to cannibalism. The Stowaway has no experience of exploring whatsoever. He snook on board as Shackleton is his hero. As the expedition progresses, though, he starts to wonder whether Shackleton is more of a Madman than a Legend.

Within 200 miles of Antarctica Endurance gets trapped in the ice pack. It remains trapped for 10 months, before being crushed and sinking. To put it mildly, the 28 crew members are in a tight spot. They have to camp out upon the drifting pack. With nobody knowing where they are.

The Stowaway is distraught. Shackleton in his element.

“For scientific discovery, give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when you are seeing no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Raymond Priestley.

 Tell us about Stolen Elephant Theatre Company. 

Andy Dickinson: Stolen Elephant Theatre Company focuses on producing outstanding comic productions. The humour may be subtle and thoughtful or provocative and laugh out loud. We are open to whichever theatrical form and content hits the funny bones and brains of their audiences.

I am the Artistic Director. I grew up in the Stockport area of Manchester. I am a producer, director, writer, translator, and teacher. I have worked extensively on the London fringe theatre scene. I have produced for the multi award-winning Tangram Theatre Company, with ‘Fuente Ovejuna’; for the Olivier Award winning playwright, Grae Cleugh, with ‘Scottish Widows’; and for another Olivier Award winning playwright, Jack Shepherd, with a revival of his ‘In Lambeth’ at Southwark Playhouse.
In 2014 I directed Grae Cleugh’s ‘Scottish Widow’ to critical acclaim. The play went on to be published by Oberon. Writing credits include the monologue ‘Larisa’, the fringe sitcom ‘Warthogs’, and the play ‘A Flame in Hero’s Tower’. I am also a novelist, having completed ‘The Thinker’ at the end of 2012.

 How did the play come about? 

AD: I started to work as a History Guide in 2016. I travel all around England and Wales, spending my days telling historical stories. I tend to do so in a comic manner. As part of my job, I read a lot.

One thing led to another led to another. I read about Franklin’s lost expedition looking for the North-West passage, about Nansen’s legendary efforts in Greenland, about Peary and Cook’s attempts on the North Pole, about Amundsen and Scott’s race to the South Pole, and on to Shackleton.

And what’s not to like about Shackleton? He’s the Houdini of polar exploration.

 What’s the story behind writing this play? How did you research the story and characters? 

AD: I spent ten days up in the Arctic Circle last winter, living in a town called Longyearbyen. It’s 78 North, closer to the North Pole than any other town. I wanted to experience a polar night, albeit a Northern one, and see the Borealis. I climbed a mountain one night in temperatures of -34, to climb into a tunnel of a glacier. I did have a guide with me!

I just wanted to feel a little of what Shackleton and The Stowaway would have felt.

27th, 28th, 29th July 730pm