ChildrensComedyFestive 16/17ReviewSouth West

Ernie And The Sea Of Ice – Exeter Phoenix

Written by: Simon Hall and Katie Villa
Director: Katie Villa
Reviewer: Charlie Hackett

Does the idea of sitting through another garish panto this season feel you with dread? Then Quirk Theatre’s Ernie And The Sea Of Ice may be just what you’re looking for.

tell-us-block_edited100 years after Ernest Shackleton’s famous expedition to Antarctica, Ernie and his eccentric crew invite you to join them on a family-friendly adventure to the South Pole.

The show’s minimal set (consisting of three icebergs and the sails of Ernie’s ship) is cleverly designed and imaginatively used. The icebergs move fluidly to form part of the ship and adding another element of fun, characters spring from their various openings and hatches.

Each playing an array of colourful characters, Quirk are a strong cast, performing with energy, finesse and clearly enjoying themselves along the way.

Simon Hall and Marie Kelsall’s larger than life characters generate many laughs throughout the show, showcasing real talent for comic timing. Ben Simpson’s Ernie is charming, even endearing, but is at times a little lost next to the likes of the mad-cap Harry McNish (Hall) and his beloved cat.

Part of the show’s appeal is its consistent use of humour. Although primarily a children’s show, there are plenty of jokes to keep adults entertained too. One of the highlights involves an introduction to the crew’s dog who happens to have a somewhat risqué name, which is sure to raise a few laughs if not a few eyebrows.

The show is advertised as being ‘suitable for adventurers over five’ but humour aside, it can sometimes also seem a little too wordy for a young audience to grasp.

In addition, the show’s action can at times be a little slow, there seems to be a lot of empathise on creating heightened characters rather than a strong sense of story.

Quirk’s audience interaction, however, is pitched beautifully, done with genuine warmth and ease, never feeling intimidating or forced.

Audience interaction carries with it an extra element of unpredictability, especially in children’s theatre, but Quirk gives the impression that they are in complete control, without being scared to have fun.  In fact, the main word to describe Ernie And The Sea Of Ice would simply be ‘fun’.

The moments that close the show are surprisingly serious and moving; it’s impossible not to wonder if the show would have benefited from more such moments throughout. But if you’re looking for gentle family fun, Ernie And The Sea Of Ice is sure to leave you feeling warm.

Runs until 3 Jan 2017 | Image: Contributed

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Charming family fun

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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