WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Essentially a tale of the shipyards of Wallsend but also a story of community, journey, birthplace, life and death – and how we navigate their choppy waters. Famously this is Sting’s journey. His revisiting of his childhood past in Wallsend which was dominated by the giant ships being built at the end of his street. Just like his character Gideon, he had to get away. Just like Gideon he returns and makes peace with his birthplace.
WHO’S IN IT?
A compellingly watchable, finely tuned cast gets to grips with some powerful songs grippingly told. It’s a shipyard opera of sorts with a strong rhythmn created by angry foot-stomping and clashing interactions on stage. Richard Fleeshman is striking as Gideon with definite echoes of Sting’s vocal tone and Frances McNamee is mesmerising as fiesty Meg, the woman he sailed away from 17 years before. Genius casting of Charlie Hardwick as the matriarchal Peggy White, wife of fair-minded shipyard foreman Jackie, played with authority by Joe McCann. The entire ensemble is worth of mention; working together to create stirring set pieces with choral work that shines.
A real star of the show is the set. Towering girders and slipways create a truly atmospheric representation of the scale of the shipyards. Clever projections create welding sparks, crashing seas and soulful skies – and a truly spine-tingling final moment as the Last Ship sails to its uncertain future.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT?
Sting’s songs and their performance are superb. Some masterful lyrics but also great range of musical styles. Live musicians at the side of the stage add much to the atmosphere of the show – as did Sting’s appearance to take the audience’s standing ovation.
The story, newly written and directed by Lorne Campbell, has undergone changes since The Last Ship was first premiered in the US and there’s an effort made to draw parallels with the demise of shipbuilding with a rabble-rousing ‘save the NHS’ moment towards the ends of the performance.
WHO SHOULD SEE IT?
There will be an obvious love for The Last Ship from those whose lives have been intertwined with shipbuilding. But it is in many ways a timeless tale of struggle. Sting’s voice is very much part of the production and this version of The Ship is heroic and memorable thanks to a remarkable cast and immersive set.
WHEN IS IT ON?
Now, until April 17.