Ever since I was little and saw the A&E movie “Shakelton” starring Kenneth Branagh I’ve been fascinated by the story of Ernest Shakelton. For those of you who are not up on this historical tidbit, a very brief summary: Ernest Shakelton, an Englishmen, commanded an expedition to Antarctica just before the outbreak of WWI. He and his crew sail the ship, Endurance, from Cape Horn South Africa, to just inside the Arctic circle before the ship was surrounded and trapped by an ice flow. Due to abnormalities in the ship’s hull the pressure of the ice caused the ship to sink leaving Shakelton and his crew stranded in the Antarctic. For two years they survived until they managed to make it to a whaling port where they found rescue. Not a man was lost on the entire expedition.
I’ve always found this story to be such a powerful demonstration of hope and leadership in the face of incredible odds and now this story is being told with puppets. Yup! Puppets! BAM’s New Wave Festival is featuring “69 degrees South” (the latitude at which Shakelton’s ship sank) the show is carried out entirely by 3 foot tall marionettes created and operated by puppeteers from Phantom Limb. Much of the set is puppetry, the actors are marionettes, the ship, which sinks, is a puppet. The puppeteers stand high above the stage on stilts and are covered in swaths of white cloth making them look almost like snowbanks. I’ve always had some reservations when it comes to puppets and puppet shows but Phantom Limb puppets on ice, conquering the Antarctic snows and staving off impending death… now this is something I could get behind!