Magellan Circumnavigation

Lee MacKenzie (left) and Bob Whitley perform Magellan Circumnavigatioin

Magellan Circumnavigation: Lighthouse, Poole (Friday 2nd October, 2020)

Stripped down and socially distanced it may have been but  this performance of Magellan Circumnavigation was pure joy, not least because it marked the return of theatre and musical story-telling to Lighthouse.

What’s more this two man show - the first theatre production to grace the Lighthouse stage in more than six months - was beautifully performed.

Conceived and written by Poole folk singer-songwriter Bob Whitley, it told in words and song the extraordinary tale of Ferdinand Magellan’s 16th century mission to find a passage through the South American continent  and circumnavigate the world.

And what a tale it was. With Bob on guitar and mandolas accompanied by brilliant cellist-vocalist Lee MacKenzie, we heard how Magellan and his men took to the high-seas determined to prove that the world was round. Not easy at a time when many people believed the earth was flat and that if you sailed too far you’d drop straight off the edge of the sea.

It was a deadly expedition - an Armada of  five ships and 237 men left Spain in 1621 on a voyage  that was threatened by mountainous seas, extreme weather, scurvy, starvation, hostile natives and mutinous crew members.

Magellan himself  never made it home - he was murdered in the Philippines - but  one ship and 18 men finally returned triumphant to Spain. It had taken them three years and 28 days and they’d covered the best part of  60,000 miles.

Sitting on a simply dressed stage, Bob and Lee performing in costume, delivered a thoughtful and perfectly nuanced performance of carefully crafted songs evoking the fear, excitement and desperately gruelling lives of the sailors and the hopes and heartaches of the loves they had left  behind.

Sitting in the audience, made up of a mere 50 odd people dotted around the front section of a theatre that could easily hold ten times that many, was a rather strange experience.

Being masked, socially distanced, sanitised, equipped with e-tickets and carefully marshalled is not the most relaxing way to spend an evening but, as we all know, it is absolutely necessary and Lighthouse has done everything it can to make it work for its customers.

This is just the beginning, the tentative first steps of getting back to some semblance of normality. I salute them for it.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022