Theatre Review: Call of the Ice is a sweet contemplation on one man’s childhood hero (Performances in Melbourne to July 2nd)

I’ve never had a hero like Tamblyn Lord. Well, unless Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of the 1990s animated children’s television show Pokémon, counts. Lord’s latest theatrical exploration, ‘Call of The Ice’, chronicles the voyage he painstakingly took in January 2016 to recreate the journey of his childhood (and lifelong) hero Sir Douglas Mawson.

Now, as a Pom, I must confess to know little of the life and adventures of Mawson. In fact I had never heard of him, just simply noticed that there were an inexplicable amount of suburbs and street names named after this Mawson bloke in Adelaide. Thus, ‘Call of the Ice’ was an educational as well as entertaining experience for me.  For any of you also a little foggy in your knowledge of Antarctic Explorers (Sorry Geography teachers of Australia), Mawson was a renowned explorer who led an expedition to Adelie Land, a part of the Antarctic that had been mostly unexplored, in 1911.

Throughout the play, Lord addresses Mawson as though talking to some far-off deity. He reads excerpts from this predecessor’s diary, and even dons a woolen headpiece that his mother had knitted for him as a boy to match his arctic hero’s. This evident passion is most contagious, and is well-aided by the adeptly written and performed script. The performance is also inter-cut with videos and breathtaking snapshots from  Lords 2016 voyage, which will have you momentarily contemplating a trip to our icy southern neighbour yourself (momentarily being the key word there).

Whilst the venue, La Mama Courthouse, is disappointingly  under construction at the moment, I couldn’t help but think that in this case the porta-loos and claustrophobic reception room actually aided in capturing what things would have been like for the original voyagers.

Tamblyn Lord gives an enthusiastic and tireless performance as the only actor in this 70-minute show. He effortlessly recreates the irrepressible excitement that he felt in following in the footsteps of his heroic Mawson, and it is a pleasure to watch him embody that childish love of adventure that we all once experienced.

Gave Barbey’s set design is simple and effective. The most stand-out element of the show was perhaps the innovative use of this minimally dressed set. An Iron bed frame is contorted, twisted, and even upended to emulate sail boats, icy caverns, a childhood climbing frame and even a puppet stage, to great effect. The use of nostalgic music from a bygone era is equally effective in this single performer show. Lord’s monologues are subtly broken up with songs about the great explorers of the past, which provide an astute reminder of man’s enduring love of exploration.

Overall, the evident creative effort and care that went into crafting this entertaining show are evidence of Lord’s adoration of his childhood hero. Though I can still categorically say that I have no desire to ever traverse Adelie Land myself (it’s already hard enough getting out of the shower this winter, let alone on a ship in the middle of freezing Commonwealth Bay), Call of the Ice offers a charming insight into the unbridled beauty of childhood passion. Perhaps I will go and dig out those Pokéballs from the attic after all.

Catch Call of the Ice from June 21-July 2nd at La Mama Courthouse (Melbourne). Tickets available here.

The reviewer attended  the Friday 23rd June performance.