By Dan Bavister
Inspired by the exotic travels of BBC broadcaster, author and adventurer Simon Reeve, No Third Entertainments’ production of Simon Reeve – To The Ends Of The Earth took up residence in the O2 City Hall Newcastle on November 9th 2023, as part of a broader U.K. tour.
Simon has an immediately warm presence. Instinctively paternal, he takes the audience under his wing with his distinctive brand of kind-hearted, thoughtful journalism, rooted in a rigorous attention to individuals’ personal testimony and a powerful sense of empathy throughout. The show is mesmerising. Simon describes, in resplendent detail – and illustrated via a montage of vivid images and videos live-streamed behind him – his experiences travelling the world shooting programmes for the BBC. We are whirled from the scalding heat of the Kalahari Desert to the broad ocean depths of the Pacific, to the Congolese rainforest shimmering with effervescent flora and fauna to the desolate Siberian tundra.
Simon also speaks eloquently of the people he has met along the way, and who have shaped his life and career, or made him smile. For example, he muses for a while on ‘Benz’, the enigmatic Russian gangster he encountered in Siberia – so named after the car, a Mercedes-Benz, he tore around Moscow in to celebrate graduating from the FSB (Federal Security Service) spy-training academy with a bunch of fellow spies, which unfortunately lead to his Siberian exile.
The show then shifts into a meditation on climate change, and the ability of our individual effort to affect tangible improvement in this regard. Simon is inspiring, laying out in clear, unassuming prose the steps we can take. One line that sticks out: ‘greening’ one’s pension will reduce one’s carbon impact more than going vegetarian and cutting out air travel combined. By ‘greening’ Simon means cutting out investments in hydrocarbons and other polluting sectors from our pension funds. While not the most glamorous of approaches to the climate crisis, it is a truly transformative one: that many may not have considered before.
The show moves onto discussions of overcoming personal hardships. Here Simon is unafraid to delve deep into a particular trial of his life: his struggle with infertility. Over the course of his long and treacherous career, Simon has consumed potentially deadly or life-altering poisons and been exposed to radioactive materials on several occasions. Simon relates, with a sense of remarkable calm and poise, the moment his doctor told him the dreaded news that he would never be able to have children, due to infertility caused by his exposure to various harmful substances as part of his professional life.
But Simon, never one to concede a fight, relates how he reformed his fitness routine, transformed his diet and, in particular, cut out endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are found in plastics, cosmetics and many other products we use every day and can mimic and interfere with the hormones that regulate our bodies. After detailing this deeply personal struggle, Simon shares a photo of him, his wife Anya and their young son, Jake. It is a sublime moment of almost spiritual gratitude on Simon’s part, that casts a warm glow across the theatre.
In the show’s final section, Simon emphasises the small steps we can take to travel to ‘the ends of the Earth’ in our own lives, whether that be a physical trip to a far-flung place, or perhaps even more rewardingly, retreading familiar territory with a renewed mental state. He talks of walking the journey we would usually drive, and taking time to explore the spaces in between the insular islands of our daily lives. And there is real truth to that outlook: maybe it might be worth changing our minds about a certain choice before us, for you never know what – or who – you may discover, simply by saying yes.
This live show will certainly inspire you to get out and explore the world. Simon Reeve – To The Ends of The Earth moves, as with many of Simon’s BBC documentaries, with the fluidity of water. From the light-hearted to the sentimental, grave commentary on global issues to musings of hope, the show never loses its sense of gravitas nor its ebullient drive. Indeed, it is a fantastic, seamless production, rich with story, beauty and hope.
Simon Reeve – To The Ends of The Earth continues its live theatre tour next year with dates available across the spring and autumn of 2024.
Image: Lynda McIntyre via No Third Entertainments LLP.
Illustration: Hayleigh McLean