Review: In Skagway, Arcola Theatre

“I want some nice tasty salty-in-the-mouth cheese. CHEEEEEEEESE!!!”

One of the reasons I like going to the Arcola is that the Sainsburys nearby stocks one of my favourite cheeses in the world – Grandma Singleton’s tasty Lancashire if you’re interested – and so I duly made my trip to the Kingsland Shopping Centre before making my way over to the Arcola for In Skagway. So it was quite amusing to hear one of the characters talk about wanting cheese during the play – if only it had been amusing in a good way.

For I really didn’t enjoy the play at all. Karen Ardiff’s story of four women stuck in the Alaskan town of Skagway at the tail end of the gold rush failed to grab me from the start, her characterisations simultaneously thinly drawn and utterly predictable, her dialogue so full of cliché as to be laughable. Throw in a lead character who has had a stroke and so communicates via voiceover, numerous flashbacks and dreamlike sequences and there’s something close to an unholy mess.

Russell Bolam’s direction feels uncharacteristically unfocused, reaching for the lyrical feel that Ardiff so clearly craves yet never really getting there, unable to deal with the abrupt shifts in tone as written. And a cast led by the reliable Geraldine Alexander are left floundering in the ridiculousness of it all. For me, something felt seriously awry here but I do have to say that many of the audience appeared to enjoy it a lot. 

Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 1st March

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