Writer and Performer: Chris Dobrowolski
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
But is it art? That’s the question you’ll probably end up asking after 90 minutes in the company of Chris Dobrowolski. His part stand-up, part monologue, part lecture,Antarctica, is one of those quirks of theatre, a story that seems so unlikely it has to be true.
In 2008, Dobrowolski applied to a scheme advertised by the British Antarctic Society for an artist to spend three months making art in the icy surrounds of the British Antarctic Bases. For Dobrowolski, though, this wasn’t going to be a trip with easel and oil paints – this would be the chance to craft a full-scale sled, a sled that would have been familiar to polar explorer Scott, out of gold gilt picture frames.
Much like the journey itself, Antarctica is something of a meandering path. There’s a humorous look at the world of Ladybird books, helpfully explained to younger members of the audience as the precursor to the internet. A withering look at the bleakness of being an art student in Hull is unlikely to feature in the City’s City of Culture line-up and Dobrowolski’s attempts at art-themed transport is unlikely to be featured in any mass transit scheme anytime soon.
Eventually we visit the Antarctica that Dombrowski actually visited and we see some of his artistic exploits. There’s clever use of scale as Action Man figures and toys are photographed with their real life counterparts but that question keeps recurring – is it art?
At 90 minutes this seems a lecture that is overstretched and, ultimately, while on paper an interesting story, we wonder what was actually achieved in taking this artist to the icy continent. There’s moments of both comedy and poignancy but it’s hard to work out what we should take away from the piece. As funding for the arts comes increasingly under the microscope this piece raises more questions than it answers. The cost of sending Dobrowolski to the Antarctic is never discussed, nor is the question of the value of such a project. As a theatre show neither question is answered nor again that recurring theme –is it art?
Reviewed on 10 September 2015