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Shipwrecked! An entertainment - Jack Studio Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE Jack Studio Theatre is presenting the UK Premiere of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – the amazing adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself). Written by Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Donald Margulies, it runs from Tuesday, December 9, 2014 to Sunday, January, 4, 2015.

Truth is stranger than Fiction but De Rougemont is stranger than both. The Wide World Magazine, June 1899.

Louis de Rougemont took Victorian England by storm with his tales of adventure on the high seas. Now Louis invites 21st century audiences to witness his story of bravery, survival and celebrity that left his readers spellbound.

Embarking on an epic journey, Louis encounters extraordinary creatures and strange islands, overcomes storms, shipwreck and attacks by a native tribe and a man-eating octopus, only to return to London thirty years later to publish his exploits.

Shipwrecked is a story that captivated and divided nineteenth century society. Is Louis de Rougemont an adventurer capable of amazing deeds, or is he merely a teller of tall tales?

Produced by Karl Swinyard, Shipwrecked is directed by Kate Bannister, Artistic Director of the Jack Studio Theatre, and has set design by Dave Benson, with lighting by William Ingham and sound by Max Pappenheim. Casting has still to be announced.

Shipwrecked is produced by the same team behind The Mystery of Irma Vep (nominated for five Off West End Awards, including best director and best production), Ghost Train, Around the World in 80 Days and Sleepy Hollow.

Donald Margulies is an American playwright born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1954. In 2000, Mr Margulies received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner with Friends, which has been produced throughout the world. His other plays include Sight Unseen (winner of an OBIE Award), Time Stands Still, Brooklyn Boy and Collected Stories.

Louis de Rougemont was born Henri Louis Grin in 1847 in Switzerland. He left home at the age of 16 before settling in Sydney. There he started a family and attempted numerous ill-fated money-making schemes. He also collected adventure stories. In 1898, he began to write about his adventures in the British periodical The Wide World Magazine under the name Louis De Rougemont. He described his alleged exploits in search of pearls and gold in New Guinea, and claimed to have spent thirty years living in the Australian outback. De Rougemont became a sensation in Victorian London.

However, some readers expressed disbelief in his tales from the start. Readers’ arguments in the Daily Chronicle and other newspapers continued for months, fuelling circulation. Eventually Grin’s fame was his downfall. His abandoned family and duped customers recognized his picture in the newspaper and came forward with accounts of the real Louis.

Though publicly discredited, Grin continued to appear in theatres as Louis de Rougemont, offering demonstrations of his turtle-riding skills as proof of his authenticity. Interest in de Rougemont soon waned, and Grin disappeared from the public life. In 1921, he died in poverty in London.

Tickets: £14, £11 concessions – available from the box office on 0333 666 3366 or online at www.brockleyjack.co.uk/ (£1.50 fee for online bookings only).

Time: 7.45pm.

NB: No performances: December 14-15, December 21, December 23-27 and December 31 to January 1.

Dying For It by Moira Buffini continues at the Jack Studio Theatre until November 8, 2014. It will be followed – from November 11 to November 29, 2014 – by the London premiere of David Bown’s Loaded.