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

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

James Ley - Love Song to Lavender Menace

James Ley had never heard of Lavender Menace when he won an LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission award to write a new play. While Edinburgh's pioneering gay book shop that existed between 1982 and 1987 before reinventing itself in new premises as West and Wilde wasn't on Ley's radar, he had vaguely heard of the Gentlemen's Head Quarters, the nickname for the public toilet that existed at the east end of Princes Street outside Register House. He was also half aware of Fire Island, the legendary gay nightclub that existed at the west end of Princes Street in a space that now forms the top floor of Waterstone's book shop.

As he discovered, Fire Island was a central focal point for what was then a still largely underground gay scene in Edinburgh's capital. Alongside the likes of the Laughing Duck pub on Howe Street, Fire Island was one of the few places where HI-NRG music could be heard in what would these days be dubbed a safe space for gay men and wo…