Skip to main content

The Last Ship

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

“Be warned,” says the minister for trade and industry to the ship-workers whose livelihood is about to be capsized in Sting’s epic musical. “Don’t make the same mistake as the miners.” The true blue twin-set and hectoring tone the minister adopts are a giveaway in terms of where the attempted destruction of a local community stems from after government-backed management declares the yard to be unsustainable. The projected storm clouds that have been gathering behind the expanse of steel-girdered walkways that make up the remarkable multi-layered set by 59 Productions look like similar portents of doom in the latest piece of musical theatre to be a gloriously rabble-rousing antidote to hard times.

First seen on Broadway in 2014, Sting’s song-cycle of blue-collar romance, ambition and defiance is given a new book by director Lorne Campbell, who weaves its cross-generational strands into a cohesive soap opera full of dramatic heart. At the centre of this is Gideon, the wayward prodigal who fled his seemingly dead-end town, but returns to find Meg, the woman he left behind as a teenager, but gets much more than he bargained for. As rebellion rises amongst the workers, led with gravitas by Joe McGann’s veteran foreman Jackie White, Gideon finally commits himself to the cause.

Campbell’s production, first seen at Northern Stage in Newcastle, is a huge affair. Sting’s songs move between the sweet sparring between Richard Fleeshman’s Gideon and Frances McNamee’s Meg, before evolving into powerful chorales accompanied by a five-piece folk band. If Meg is a latter-day Pirate Jenny, it is Katie Moore’s Ellen who represents the future in a passionate call to arms that offers solidarity and hope in the face of all that is currently wrong with the world.

The Herald, June 13th 2018

ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…