The Last Ship, Festival Theatre Review:
**** 4 Stars
“musical theatre that truly counts both politically and personally”
There are a few musicals that start as concept albums, the biggest of which is Jesus Christ Superstar, but when pop music superstar Sting released “The Soul Cages” in 1991 could he have dreamed this most personal of music journeys would be the inspiration for a fully Fledged Musical.
20 Years later and ” The Last Ship” is a reality, following its American opening in Chicago and a run on Broadway the ship has set sail around the UK and makes a stop at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre and what a production it is.
Telling the story of a family, the community around them and an act of defiance that would shape a generation. A powerful mix especially combined with the music and lyrics of Sting and the new book by the productions director Lorne Campbell.
This is a tale set firmly in the north and while Billy Elliott shines the light of injustice on the miners during the Thatcher years, The last ship turns that focus on to the Dockers that were literally decimated by a government that didn’t care and impose suffering on an industrial scale that shocks to this day.
The last ship is a production with real heart and although the first act is little slow to get going you cant help but be enveloped in the unfolding drama thanks the stunning stage setting by designer 59 Productions and Matt Daw’s evocative lighting design. Although technically the sound was unbalanced in the start of the show making it a little difficult to fully here the lyrics and line but that was remedy before we got to the heart of the action.
The show has a strong ensemble cast lead by Richard Fleeshman as Gideon Fletcher the golden boy who abandoned his home only to come back and confront the love he lost its a finally tuned performance with a gorgeous vocal that’s enchanting to watch. He is joined by Joe McGann in the role of Jackie White, the moral centre point of the show, he is the one who dares to dream of better things and what the power of people working together can achieve, McGann is charming and honest take on the character. Playing opposite McGann in the role of Peggy White is Penelope Woodman (covering for an indisposed Charlie Hardwick) and its a true tour de force that for once puts the women’s story at the centre of the plot, regardless of it being miners, Dockers or any other striking community it was the women that truly bore the brunt and gave the greatest Strength and Sting should be commended for how the women are represented in this show.
Kevin Wathen in the role of Davy Harrison has excellent physicality and every ounce of anger coarses through his body when ever he appears on stage but the northern accent is so thick it renders the lines and lyrics almost unintelligible which is shame especially for a character that captures the audience from the off.
The Tall Ship is a deeply personal, honest and oft emotional musical that has come to not only define a generation but showcases what community spirit is all about and it does make you think what the cost of progress is truly about as dock yards are more or less consigned to the history books. Bravo to Sting and the team at the Last ship for making musical theatre that truly counts both politically and personally to all those who view it. True Classy Theatre at its best.
Karl Sydow & Kathryn Schenker with Northen Stage Presents The Last Ship, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 16th June for tickets go to: http://www.capitaltheatres.com/thelastship UK tour continues.