Theatre Review: The Professor of Adventure at Theatre by the Lake

Theatre by the Lake production of THE PROFESSOR OF ADVENTURE written and performed by Peter McQueen

Peter Macqueen as Millican Dalton (photo courtesy of TBTL)

by Ken Powell

Millican Dalton was, without doubt, an oddbod. This self-styled ‘Professor of Adventure’ who left his city job to hide away in a cave in Borrowdale was an eccentric who was famous locally and enjoyed greater national fame in his lifetime than he would have liked. At least, according to Peter Macqueen, that was the case anyway.

Written and performed by Macqeen, this one-man play is as eccentric as Dalton himself. Set entirely in a cave with nothing but himself, the audience and those he imagines are with him, Macqeen’s portrayal of this strange old man is fascinating. Although this is his first foray into writing a play, Macqueen is no stranger to performing one-man plays and his experience in handling the form shows in the performance.

Is the play to everyone’s taste? No. Despite being split into three shorter acts rather than the more traditional two, there is little for one man to do other than talk and… my goodness could Millican Dalton talk. His monologues are rambling at times, deeply intellectual at others – as befits the character of course – but that means the audience have to be awake, alert and fully concentrating all the time. Does that mean the play is boring though? No, not at all.

Those with a love of history will enjoy this glimpse into life in war-time Cumbria as Dalton battles his fear of Hitler and his determination to give Churchill a piece of his mind. Likewise those who love traversing the lakes and hills will appreciate Dalton’s persistence that ‘freedom is everything’ and the descriptions of his ‘adventures’ enjoyed by the man for 40-odd years.

Theatre by the Lake production of THE PROFESSOR OF ADVENTURE written and performed by Peter McQueen

Peter Macqueen as Millican Dalton (photo courtesy of TBTL)

There are comedic moments, there is pathos and sometimes there are almost psychotic breaks. But we get to see this ‘Borrowdale hermit’ in all his colours. If you’re interested in character studies, this play is as good as anything you can hope to see. Macqueen has written a good play here and certainly something different from the norm.

Clearly, others agree. Tickets for The Professor of Adventure sold out even as the play was opening and your only hope of seeing it at TBTL is to hope for a last-minute cancellation. Luckily, you can go see the play when Peter Macqueen takes it on tour from Thursday 7 April until Saturday 23 April. Venues include: The Globe Hall, Ireby; Orton Market Hall; Alston Town Hall; Whittingham Memorial Institute, Northumberland, Amble Parish Hall, Northumberland; and Tullie House Museum, Carlisle. See the website for full details.

The Professor of Adventure runs until Tuesday 5 April with the tour continuing until Saturday 23 April. Tour venues, dates and tickets can be found at www.theatrebythelake.com or at the box office (017687 74411)