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Moby Dick - Royal and Derngate Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review 

All aboard for sailing with Simple 8 and Royal and Derngate co-production of Herman Melville’s classic tale Moby Dick.

Syreeta Kumar, James Newton, Guy Rhys, Mark Arends and William Pennington. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Adapted for the stage by Sebastian Armesto and directed by Jesse Jones the story follows Ishmael who joins the Captain Ahab aboard the Pequod and gets swept up in the Captain’s quest for revenge of the titular whale Moby Dick who took his leg. 

The journey aboard the ship is cleverly captured through the visual design. Kate Bunce’s scaffold set is used to great effect with wood and rope to create the ship and various levels. Johanna Town’s lighting adds to the sweeping drama, adding vastness and tension. The visuals are brilliant with props further bringing the story to life.

Mark Arends is magnificent as Ishmael. He captures a man caught a little out of his depth really well and forms a lovely bond with fellow whaler Queequeg (Tom Swale). Swale himself also is impressive and that impact the bond creates pays off emotionally in the second act. Arends is a brilliant storyteller and has the audience in the palm of his hands as he delivers the text. 

Guy Rhys is a formidable Captain Ahab, constantly in command of his crew driving them forwards through fatigue and storms. Though there are some lovely tender moments between Ahab and Hannah Emanuel’s Starbuck which do stand out. Emanuel pitches Starbuck perfectly with warmth and kindness. 

The cast of Moby Dick. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Syreeta Kumar, James Newton, Hazel Monaghan, William Pennington and Jonathan Charles all multi-role and make a fantastic ensemble who help drive the story forwards.

The music, composed by Charles who is musical director and part of the ensemble, combines traditional sea shanties with atmospheric folk that helps drive the mood of the action. Played live by Charles, and the excellently talented Monaghan and Pennington, with vocals from the company the sound scape is beautiful to hear.

The only slight down side was the volume of some of the speeches meant that what was being said was lost to the space. Occasional lines were lost. Though thankfully this didn’t impact the story which is easy to follow. 

If you’re looking for an engrossing and engaging story delivered by a magnificent company of performers and actor-musicians then this production of Moby Dick is a prime catch. You will have a whale of a time.


Moby Dick plays at Royal and Derngate until Saturday 13th April 2024. Tickets are available from The show then tours until Saturday 22nd June. Dates and venues can be found at

The cast of Moby Dick. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

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