Exploring a polar mystery. Shackleton’s Carpenter challenges history at Jermyn Street Theatre

Gail Louw’s acclaimed and intriguing play, Shackleton’s Carpenter, will receive its West End premiere at Jermyn Street Theatre this summer ahead of a UK and Ireland tour.

Shackleton’s Carpenter, Harry McNish, was the only man who challenged The Boss on the ice floes of Antarctica.

In the summer of 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set sail on The Endurance for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent.

It was to be a fateful journey. On November 21, 1915, the Endurance was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica, causing her to sink.

The expedition leader and his crew of 27 were left stranded on pack ice.

McNish, a brilliant carpenter and shipwright, defied Shackleton’s orders and played a vital role in ensuring all 28 were saved – But whose was the story to endure?

For all his bravery and ingenuity, McNish was one of the very few crew members not to be awarded the Polar Medal.

His health was impaired by the experience and he emigrated to New Zealand where his condition worsened, and he could no longer work.

One still night on the dockside, alone and destitute, he challenged The Boss one last time. In his fevered mind he relived the Endurance expedition, pitting himself against Shackleton and plagued by the ghosts of his past.

Shackleton’s Carpenter stars Malcolm Rennie who has appeared in over 20 West End shows including Catch my Soul, She Stoops to Conquer, The Good Companions, Salad Days, The Price, Lady Windermere’s Fan and Hard Times.

His TV and film credits include Midsomer Murders, Taggart, Ransom, Pride and Prejudice, The Lenny Henry Show, Monarch of the Glen and most recently Coronation Street, Sherlock, and four series of Mr Selfridge as Fraser the family butler.

The production was originally directed by Tony Milner. This was the penultimate play Tony directed before his death in 2015 and this London premiere is dedicated to his memory.

Gail Louw is a multi-award winning playwright and her plays are performed throughout the world. Her new play, The Ice Cream Boys, is being produced as part of Jermyn Street Theatre’s autumn season.

Shackleton’s Carpenter runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre from July 29 to August 17.

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