Inspired by historical events, Between Worlds brings to the stage the searing moment of first contact between the British and Hawaiians in 1779, and reimagines James Cook’s ambition to go ‘farther than it is possible for man to go’ in his quest for immortality.
Between Worlds reveals Cook as a complex character; a pre-eminent scientist of his day, with an unclouded vision of nature’s forces and survival on the open sea. His openness to embrace Polynesian culture -- exchanging names with island chiefs and sharing their ‘breath of life’ -- drew him into an alluring spiritual world, but at a great personal cost.
The story begins many years after Cook’s death. Elizabeth Cook seeks answers from her cousin, Isaac, an eyewitness to Cook’s final days. As Isaac’s tale begins, the joy and tragedy in Hawai’i come to life through his memory and her imagination.
Jumping back in time, we meet Cook as his expedition arrives at Kealakekua Bay. He forms deep friendships with the Hawaiian King and his son. In a remarkable happenstance, the timing of Cook’s arrival coincides with Lono season, Lono being the Hawaiian god of peace and renewal who returns at the new year.
Cook’s tall sails echo Lono’s white religious symbols. The Lono priests and Hawaiian King bless Cook with ceremonies and gifts as a manifestation of Lono. Cook’s willingness to accept this mantle appears bizarre to his officers, who fear for their captain’s sanity. Was Cook’s action hubris, madness, or just a clever ploy? Or was he truly under the spell of great mystical power?
The Hawaiian world is a vibrant tapestry of red feathered gods; royalty with ancestry flowing back generations to legendary Kahiki; fighting chiefs; and priests who worship Lono vying with those who worship the war god Kū.
Cook departs at the right time, when Lono season ends, and the King and war god Kū resume supremacy. However, a storm breaks his ship’s mast; Cook retreats back to Kealakekua for repairs, not knowing his return challenges the King’s rule. Confusion and tension escalate into warfare.
First contact draws everyone between worlds. Lt King and Princess Mahealani leap into a romance, torn between love and duty. The Kū priests reluctantly yield power to the forces of Lono, for a time. The officers are lost between trusting Cook’s wisdom and doubting his sanity. Cook finds himself sliding between the world of home, and the glory of the god’s realm.
Elizabeth’s undimmed love for James, and her cherishing of his letters, bring to light the true price of immortality.
After three intensive workshops under the direction of award-winning musical theatre creatives Jason Langley and Michael Tyack, Between Worlds is a powerful, emotionally captivating, musical drama, ready for the professional stage.
about Between Worlds...
Pulled between worlds - Blake Erickson as James Cook in the 2017 workshop presentation at ATYP Sydney.