There are many advantages to books – they paint a picture for us, while permitting us to dive deep into our imaginations. Sport for Jove’s production of Moby Dick manages this with aplomb in this very, very abridged version of the novel.

Cutting out the hundreds of pages of cetology and facts such as just why so few whalers leave their hulls toes intact, the original stage adaptation by Orson Welles is here brought to thrilling life. Transfixing us alone with the sparing segments of the novel that are above all action-orientated we jump degrees and latitudes from one confrontation to another, whether it be between our Captain Ahab (Danny Adcock) and his crew or that between same and those mammoths of the ocean.

Loyally exploring some of the novel’s richer themes, those endeared by its labyrinthine musings will not find same in this production. It is after all a dramatic retelling and by consequence of it’s form intent, far from a painstaking recreation of 12 hours of page-turning, on those semblances of it’s source material which best and here so well befit the stage.

It’s a rare compliment to make for any production, but Moby Dick showcases its best dramatic and technical capability during of all things it’s transitions. You would barely figure you are shifting from one encounter to another as one piece of action or character slowly encroaches on proceedings to take centre stage. This effect is most visible in Adcock’s seamless introduction to events which best reflects the coherency of some of our most endearing novels, among them Herman Melville’s eponymous triumph.

This staging made all the more complicated by the famous presence of Ahab’s wooden leg, that particular staple of this story is well managed as are oft-debated aspects of the Captain’s character, here emerging from his cabin a charismatic and thunderous force to be reckoned with. Save two of the minor figures and Tom Royce-Hampton’s Ishmael, our point of view counterpart for much of the play, no character is here visible or present enough to bear a similar or such resounding effect.

Cycling all too quickly between several voices and personalities, the stage is crowded more often than not, giving way to one or two too many characters for whom we have space to adequately account throughout Moby Dick’s concise running time. The staging by and large distracting from much of the adaptation’s shortcomings; the use of ladders to simulate the tides and traditional sheet metal for those blustering storms are a joy to watch amid several tumultuous recreations.

With sound too deployed to great effect, most notably upon the arrival of the raging winds and one set-piece centred on the hurling of a spear, in spite of what little we glean of much else that is not Ahab the confined, vociferous drama works wonderfully.

4 stars

Sport For Jove Theatre Co & Seymour Centre present
Moby Dick
Playwright Orson Welles
Adapted from Herman Melville’s novel
Director Adam Cook

Reginald Theatre, The Seymoure Centre, Chippendale
9-25 August 2018

On Artshub