Do Not Go Gentle, presented by the Sydney Theatre Company, is a marvel of a play, and this is a marvel of a production. Patricia Cornelius’s words, spoken by Scott of the Antarctic and his ragtag bunch of fellow travellers, are poetic, quixotic, trenchant, and potent. The liminal space offered by the ice and the snow of the setting takes the characters deep into their own psychic extremities. They become ruminative, playful, despairing, and libidinal as they encounter the limits of their physical and emotional capacities. They yearn for the ever-elusive South Pole, seeking to reach an end that promises liberation and obliteration.
Our explorers are, actually, the ageing residents of a nursing home. This reality, although it is never clear how apparent is to the protagonists, is offered to the audience in hints over the course of the play. As viewers, we are led deftly into this distinction between the imaginary and the putatively real. And we understand that the ice exploration is not an allegorical sleight of hand on the part of the playwright, but that this journey is properly alive to the explorers. Do Not Go Gentle offers a Beckett-like investigation into the desperate clutching eagerness of the human mind. But unlike Beckett, Cornelius humanely insists upon the joy and meaning offered by linguistic and imaginative play