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BWW Review: ARCTIQUE at Grand Théâtre

BWW Review: ARCTIQUE at Grand Théâtre

These last couple of weeks have been remarkably busy for us at Broadway World, but luckily we managed to make some time to catch the theater play Arctique, a dark and intriguing thriller written and directed by Anne-Cécile Vandalem. This ambitious project was only available for two days at the Grand Théâtre, so it was no surprise to see it practically sold out in its first performance. Arctique tells the story of a few mysterious strangers, who one day receive a letter from an unknown source inviting them aboard an old luxury ship. It is clear from minute one that there is something gravely wrong with the whole arrangement, a suspicion that is soon confirmed when the boat gets lost somewhere between Denmark and Greenland. Alone in a dark vessel with a somber past, these strangers begin to put together the real reason that joined their fates, as they fight for survival in the freezing waters of the North.

Vandalem made some risky bets in this ambitious work, but we were glad to see that most of them paid off. Let's have a look at some of the highlights.

The gold: The narrative and the atmosphere. There are multiple elements necessary for the creation of a proper thriller and, honestly, Arctique pretty much ticked all the boxes. The general atmosphere always resembled that of a ghost ship, something out of The Shining, but with the dark blue aesthetic of Until Dawn. The main line of the narrative focused on mere individuals, giving us the chance to judge and reflect on the personality traits and past deeds of each character, yet the story also presented a very well-defined overlying setting, where social, political and environmental issues greatly contributed for the shaping of the tale. It was as if the grip of society and the dooming consequences of Global Warming never failed to surround the stage. The pacing was excellent, especially considering the length of the play and no scene ever felt too dragged or too short. As admirers of a good narrative, the quality of the script and the direction choices that brought us this atmosphere and pacing simply have to take home the gold.

The silver: The production team. No atmosphere can be created without a mind capable of conceiving a believable scene but... having the skill to put the whole thing together on stage and making it run flawlessly for almost two hours, that's still a different business. This play relied heavily on filming, since multiple scenes took place outside of the stage, where the main hall of the boat was set. Such a move requires a very considerable effort from the staff working in the background, and while this alone would have been more than a handful, there was still everything else. There was snow, there was smoke, there was even a polar bear. Yes, a remarkably believable polar bear.

The bronze: The music. You could tell this was not a musical show, but actress Epona Guillaume stole the show whenever her character sang. Other members of the cast had some heart-felt musical numbers, but the young devil was hell on heels and a red dress. One must also acknowledge the band, who played an absolutely crucial role throughout the night, tirelessly working to create the right mood.

Suggestion box: Avoid an equal balance between comedy and thriller. Sometimes mixing it can work, but very often you cannot have it all. A heavy social background, a truly somber atmosphere, a mysterious dark past and the continuous use of comedy are distinct elements that, at some point and in some measure, are bound to cancel each other out. Comic moments were genuinely funny, and the vibe of mystery and danger was always present - but it is precisely because these two opposites were constantly well executed, that the contrast became a bit too recurrent.

As always, our thanks to the Grand Théatre and congratulations to everyone who participated on this play.

To reach out to the writer: nuno.de.sousa.lopes@gmail.com

Image credit: Christophe Engels


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From This Author David Sousa Lopes