Theatre / New Writing, Pleasance Courtyard, Venue 33, 13:00 until 30th August.
A piece of new writing from Jeffery Mayhew and Susan Wilson, A Cinema In South Georgia is the story of four men from Eyemouth who lived as whalers and sailors in the Antarctic ice. Reviving stories and making vivid the long distant past, with archival film and a script based entirely on first-hand accounts, A Cinema in South Georgia is a fantastic piece of working class social history in a little discussed area.
Though a discussion of the state of the whaling industry in the mid-twentieth century might not seem like the lightest way to spend the afternoon, A Cinema In South Georgia is entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable throughout though admittedly most suited to teenagers and armchair historians rather than undergraduates looking to sink their teeth into the meaty historiography of the whaling industry. Covering everything from wage scales, motivations in joining the dangerous industry, a guide to Antarctic bootlegging and booze production and the way in which the sex industry coexisted with the colonial outposts engaged in the seafaring trades, A Cinema in South Georgia is truly global in its perspective.
Thankfully this is not another example of working class history being bleached by public school boy accents, with thick accents rolling through the dialogue and a health dosage of Scots in the script. The audience seemed delighted to see the old docks of Leith come alive, and with an average age well above mine they were clearly reliving fragments of their own memories on the stage before them. The performance seemed well researched and rehearsed, maintaining a constant momentum throughout and never for a second boring the audience despite the weighty subject matter. Admittedly the acting is not quite Thespian, and the stage basic – but part of the charm of the production is its very rough around the edges quality and its insistence not to shy away from even the murkier aspects of the story.
If a more mature Horrible Histories took on the seven seas, this would be the result. Enjoyable whether or not you’re a history buff, but well worth checking out if you are keen to find out more about a corner of Edinburgh’s history which is less talked about and in danger of being altogether forgotten.