Reviewed by Deborah Mackenzie
An original musical with music and lyrics by Sting, inspired by his 1991 album, The Soul Cages, and his own childhood experiences in Wallsend and the shipbuilding industry. Sting’s music and lyrics are accompanied by a book by director Lorne Campbell.
The story is of a shipyard facing its last days, due to political conflict and finances, where the workers meet with trade minister Baroness Tynedale who wants to break up the nearly finished vessel Utopia as scrap. This conflict is interwoven with the story of Gideon Fletcher, a ship workers son, and Meg Dawson his school sweetheart. Gideon tries to encourage Meg to leave with him, but she declines. Upon leaving he promises to come back…
The story reverts to the political tensions of the closing of the shipyard, and a strike ensues. An epic account of a community banded together in defiance against the proposed plan of breaking up the Utopia. They decide to stage a ‘work in’ where they continued to complete the ship Utopia.
Gideon arrives back after being away for many years, hoping that Meg hasn’t forgotten him. Meg is still angry with him for leaving and not communicating, then in one outburst she informs him that he has a daughter. His leave is ending and he is due to set sail again but goes AWOL and becomes involved in the ‘work in’ as he can launch and navigate the Utopia once completed.
Even though the romantic sub-plot is conventional for musicals it adds lightness in a time that was depressing, dark and uncertain.
The extremely impressive, surprisingly versatile shipyard set changes from moment to moment with the use of projected images, both still and moving. These changes had us in a variety of locations, sitting rooms, inside a cathedral, at the gates of the shipyard to the inside of the ship. The technical skill of the designers bringing it all together without a hitch is wonderous.
We became part of the songs and music as we clapped along. The storyline kept us glued to each word, feelings of despair at the predicament of how livelihoods of the workers were taken away from them, yet the romance and new beginnings shone through. This musical brought emotions of joy, anger and injustice as the storyline unfolded…
One of the best shows we have seen this year.
Tickets cost from £17.90 to £50.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The Last Ship is at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow from 18-23 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/theatre-royal-glasgow or call the box office on 0844 871 7647.
Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 3QA | 0844 871 7647